Palm Sunday / April 13, 2014
All is ready now for the final days of our Lenten journey with Jesus. The drama of the Paschal Mystery will be re-enacted once again in parishes throughout the world. I have loved the liturgy of Holy Week since I was a boy and in this blog I hope I can share that love with you. We’ll go deep here. Please take time to reflect. Come with me now, won’t you?
Jesus entered the holy city Jerusalem on a humble beast of burden ~ himself burdened with the sins of the world. Here’s the gospel story . . . .
When they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of
Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite
you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her.
Untie them and bring them here to me. And if anyone should say anything to
you, reply, ‘The master has need of them.’ Then he will send them at once.”
This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be
fulfilled: “Say to daughter Zion, ‘Behold, your king comes to you, meek and
riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” The disciples
went and did as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the ass and the colt
and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them. The very large crowd
spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and
strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who
comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” And when he entered
Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?” And the crowds
replied, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Thus, what Jesus was about to do was a deliberate, planned action on his part, the last act in the drama of the life of Jesus, as William Barclay the great Presbyterian scripture scholar that I quoted in last week notes. The whole city of Jerusalem was awash with visitors in preparation for the Passover. Barclay notes that thirty years later a Roman governor had taken a census of the number of lambs slain for Passover and noted it to be about a quarter of a million. Now, Passover regulation stated that a party of a minimum of ten are required for each lamb which meant that there were about two and a half million people in Jerusalem at the time Jesus entered the holy city!
The crowd receives Jesus like a king. They spread their cloaks in front of him. They cut down and waved palm branches (and that is why we bless and distribute palms and this day is known universally as Palm Sunday.)
They greeted him as they would a pilgrim, Barclay notes: “Blessed be he who enters in the name of the Lord.”
They shouted, “Hosanna!” The word means, “Save now!” and that was a cry that a people addressed to their king or their god. (Interesting ~ I didn’t know that!)
So, we see that Jesus action here was planned and deliberate, similar to those of the prophets of old who would put their message into a dramatic act that people could not fail to see or understand. Jesus action here was clearly a Messianic claim, or at least, the cleanser of the Temple, an even more dramatic act in which he was to rid the Temple of the abuses that defiled it and its worship a few days later.
To conclude, then, Barclay had made three points about this story . . .
+ It shows Jesus’ courage. He knew he was entering a hostile city. All through his last days, there is in his every action a “magnificent and sublime defiance”~”a flinging down the gauntlet .” (Barclay)
+ It shows us his claim to be God’s Messiah, God’s Anointed One. And the cleanser of the temple.
+ It shows us his appeal ~ not a kingship of the throne, but a kingship of the heart.
Lord Jesus, here we are at the beginning of Holy Week once again.
We raise our palms,
we listen to the story of your sacred passion and death.
And now we learn that You really meant it!
You weren’t just pretending to be human;
You immersed Yourself in our misery,
You got down int the muck with us
~ accepting it all, even death on a cross.
Jesus, help us to embrace our humility,
our poverty, our brokenness, our share in Your cross.
May this Holy Week truly be holy for us
so that we too will rise again with You to new life
and receive anew the gift of the Spirit.
To You, Lord Jesus, be glory and honor forever! Amen.
Here are the todays’s Mass readings. Click here. To get back to this page, go to the top left corner of your computer screen, click on the < back arrow, and you’ll be right back here.
Before you go, dear friends, here is a beautiful song performed by some very devout young people ~ “Behold the Lamb of God”. Be sure to enter full screen. Have a fruitful Holy Week. I will publish again throughout the week.
William Barclay / The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2 ~ Revised Edition \ The Westminster Press ~ Philadelphia 1975