Palm Sunday

A blessed Holy Week to you!

I've always felt that the tone of Palm Sunday services was a little off. Sometimes, it feels like a premature Easter.

But I was reminded, as I prepared to preach this past Sunday, that Palm Sunday is one of the more tragic, bittersweet stories in Scripture.

The irony of the scene is that the people are saying and doing all of the right things! But I'm reminded of the words of the prophet, Isaiah:

"This people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me,"

Yes, the crowds are shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David!" Yes, this is the beginning of Christ's coronation -- His royal procession into His holy city, but this is an occasion of mourning for Jesus. Because in the hundreds of years since those prophetic words, the hearts of God's people had still not changed.

"And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, 'Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes... because you did not know the time of your visitation.'"

It's really a devastating scene.

The Prince of Peace has come to the City of Peace (the meaning of the word Jerusalem), and they will not receive the peace they've so desperately need. God is weeping over His city, His people, because He knows that despite the words of their lips, they still do not want Him as their King.

Yet, He'll be made King. He'll be clothed in scarlet, crowned with thorns, enthroned on a cross.

And therein lies the great duality, paradox and irony of Palm Sunday. Yes, it is royal procession, but it's also a funeral procession. Jesus is going to His grave.

It's Triumphant, but it's also the beginning of Christ's willful humiliation.

This is a bitter moment for Jesus, and yet, the truth of this day and this week are the sweetness of the Gospel for us.

The beauty of this text is the conflict it creates in us. This Holy Week, we are called (as we always have been) to take up our cross and go with Jesus, willingly, to the grave. We're called to join the funeral procession. Get in line because we're called to die.

And this is good news. How? A wonderful theologian, Robert Farrar Capon, put it this way, "He [Jesus] raises the dead and only the dead."


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