Palm Weekend -April 9/10
April 10, 2022 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: Philippians 2:5-11
You know, a lot of churches, they'll take this day and they'll turn it into what's called Passion Sunday, where we try to cram the entire story into it. Taking this triumphant entry into Jerusalem and then talking about Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, because yeah, most people aren't going to come anyway, so we'll just do that. And then you can come up on Easter Sunday and know what happened. It makes for an incredibly long Gospel reading that nobody wants to stand for. So we're going to focus on Palm Sunday today.
But you can't really do that without looking on the horizon and knowing what's going to happen. After all, Jesus knew. And I think that's what makes something like this all the more perhaps shocking and inspiring. See when Jesus had been going around and doing his ministry for a few years: healing the sick, challenging the powers that be within the Jewish community--the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes--the people that thought they knew the stuff of their religion well. The unintended consequence of this is when you. Well, maybe it wasn't unintended, I don't know. But when you tend to, you know, cheese off the people in power they tend to find a way to stop that.
And so here comes Jesus, who has been inspiring the people all the way through. In Roman occupied territory, all amidst the backdrop of prophecy that says that a Messiah will come. And will redeem the people of Israel. And the common interpretation of that was that would overthrow Rome at the time and restore Israel to the political power that it once was. These people see Jesus and the genuineness of Jesus heart. The authority he takes to forgive sins. To heal the sick. Heal the blind. Even raise the dead. Jesus comes into Jerusalem in this triumphant entry, hailed as a king by the people. They are ready to receive this Jesus shouting: Hosanna, save us, redeem us rescue us! Throwing cloaks in palm branches on the road for this royal carpet treatment. This is something that they would do when kings would return to Jerusalem from a journey, whether they were going out to war or going out to negotiate trade, heck going out for a hunt. When they came back, they received this huge fanfare. The people would come in the streets, would throw branches down on the road as the king rode triumphantly in to the city.
But this is a much different setting than ancient Israel. This is a setting where Rome controls Israel and Jerusalem. And the Jews within it. And while the Romans say you can do your your Jewish festivals and you can carry on your religion, don't get any smart ideas that you're going to somehow overcome us. The money, the authority and the power is still coming our way. And these same Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes, these ones that have this position of power within the occupied state know this, get nervous about these things. Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem during the Passover.
This huge pilgrimage of Jews coming into the City has not been without its tensions before. There have been uprisings from group, a group called the Zealots that wanted to take over in a violent, militaristic way to restore Israel. And Jesus rides in being hailed as this king, this redeemer, this one that the Zealots would support in this way. And optics being what they are it probably didn't look good that Jesus had a couple of Zealots in his band of disciples. One who was known as Simon the Zealot. And Judas, who is assumed to be one himself. Enough so that the Pharisees come up to him and say, "Tell your disciples to stop."
They know the tensions are high in this time, in this space. And they want to maintain the peace with Rome. But Jesus doesn't stop it. In fact, Jesus alludes to the idea that it can't be stopped. Because this is what Jesus is here for. To come into this moment of high political tension. To be betrayed. Crucified. And on the third day risen again. He's told his disciples this on the way to Jerusalem. Not only does he see that this is inevitable, but he orchestrates this. He tells his disciples, Go into the village ahead of you. When you enter it, find there a colt and untie it and bring it to me. And maybe this is just an aside, but. it's kind of an interesting tactic, if you think of it. When they untie the colt and, they just say, well, the Lord needs it. I've never tried that before, but it might be something worthy of giving a go.
What are you doing over there? Oh, the Lord needs it. But even Jesus makes sure that this event happens in a way that is very reminiscent of a king coming in to Jerusalem. So that he can be this target, so that he can be this public enemy of the leadership. Not just the Pharisees, but also the Roman soldiers who definitely are noticing what's happening here. It culminates in Jesus hanging on the cross with a sign above his head: "King of the Jews." A message to the people that this is what happens when you try to declare a king for yourselves.
Jesus does this willingly. For you and for me. Takes this moment of pomp and circumstance, knowing that in a short while the very people singing Jesus's praises are going to shout "Crucify him!" I don't know about you, but I don't have a personal story that I can latch on to to truly identify with what Jesus is doing here. I don't know what that would be like to continue on this journey, make this decision knowing that my life would be utterly destroyed on the other side. And I'm willing to bet most of us don't have a way to identify with this. Except to just be in absolute awe, that somebody with the ability and the authority to do these miracles, that has this power would willingly die in humility and weakness for you and me. That is what truly makes Jesus King of Kings and Lord of Lords for us. Not this declaration with palm branches on the triumphant entry into Jerusalem in the expectation that Jesus would just take over and take control. But that Jesus willingly does what Jesus came to do. To die for us. To rise again. For us. To invite us into that same death and resurrection so that we can feel the reality, the truth of the forgiveness and love that we have. Through the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate testament of love for you and for me.
So as we take stock this Holy Week, as we journey to the cross. Yes, it's something that we do every year. But as we focus on it again, let Jesus reign in your hearts. Let Jesus be King of Kings and Lord of Lords over you. Let us submit ourselves to this love. So that going where we can't follow, we can praise and thank Jesus for doing what we can't. This is a time to celebrate. This is a time to reflect. This is a time to grow. In the love of God for the sake of the world.
All praise and glory and honor be to the King of kings. Amen.