Have you ever paused to wonder what exactly is going on with Palm Sunday? This day is significant for several reasons. Today inaugurates Holy Week as we walk closely with Jesus into Jerusalem. Also this is the day where we read about Jesus entering into Jerusalem at the same time as the Governor. Only, Jesus’s entry is quite different from the Governor’s. Today sets the tone for the rest of the week as we hear again the events that are to follow.
It is no accident that Jesus makes his arrival at this appointed time. What we learn is that Jesus is making a statement and turning the tables up one last time so to speak. The governor is the symbol of the government and Roman rule. He will no doubt have made a grand and glorious entrance into the city with all the pomp and ceremony to match. Jesus on the other hand enters on the opposite side of the city. His entrance is not so grand and glorious. He enters on a colt, his clothing will have been what he always would have worn, nothing noteworthy or special about it. There were no trumpets or fan-fair to his entrance. He did have a crowd. He was known in town. So people gathered to see him out of curiosity or a deep hope and belief that he was coming into the city to overthrow Roman rule and declare a new world order. Do you see the juxtaposition and the satire? Two known people entering the Capital city, each for an entirely different purpose.
As we know, Jesus absolutely was coming to declare a new world order; just not in the way people expected. We need to pay attention to the crowd today and this week. The crowd that gathered on that first Palm Sunday is the same crowd that follows Jesus through the week to that first Good Friday where their shouts turn from “Hosanna” to “Crucify him!” That same crowd in a few short days suddenly takes the easy way out.
When we pay attention to the crowd we realize that today, the Sunday of the Passion, is a test of character and resolve not just for the crowd, but for us too. In so many ways, we are the crowd we hear about in Scripture. We too get caught up in the moment and cheer Jesus on, why wouldn’t we! When things are going well in life, it is easy to hold our heads up high and bask in how good it can be to be a follower of Jesus. These are the times when our faith is not questioned. These are times when we do not have to compromise our values or make hard ethical and moral decisions. It is easy to be strong in our faith when our beliefs are not questioned or challenged or when we are not persecuted for our beliefs. But life is seldom like that. Often, all too often we come across times when everything we believe is challenged, questioned and shaken to the core.
We, like the crowd, often find ourselves taking the easy way out sometimes. Sometimes we just want to go with the flow and not make a scene. So this week is a test of our character and resolve too. Do we have what it takes to go the distance? Do we have what it takes to walk with Jesus and stand at the foot of the cross with Mary and the disciple whom Jesus loved, as Scripture points out? On a side note - it is interesting to note that there is no name mentioned for the “Disciple whom Jesus loved.” It could have been any of them, even you. Perhaps this is a deliberate attempt by the author of this gospel to make room for you and I to insert our name in place as the Disciple whom Jesus loved. Thus an invitation is extended to you and I to enter into the passion narrative and stand at the foot of the cross.
God thanks us for standing by and walking with Jesus so far. God thanks us for being here today and entering into this last week of Jesus’s earthly ministry. God is with us this week as God has been with us every other week of our lives. We need to hold onto this understanding because this is what will sustain us through this week and those times in our life when we find it hard to have faith. God is with us, always has been and always will be.
This week we have an invitation to be with Jesus and to embark on a journey that will bring us in touch with our humanity that leads to the cross where we find life in the face of death. Now is the time, ready or not, to accept the invitation and walk with Jesus into a new life. This is not an easy walk, but one that will make us stronger and deepen our relationship with God. We are invited to be a part of a new story where things are not what they seem, but where God is changing hearts and drawing all people into a deeper relationship with the Divine.