“As [Jesus] rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to Praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen.” (Luke 19:35-36)
For many years I would cram the Palms liturgy which is more joyful and upbeat with the Passion narrative which takes us downhill quickly as Jesus entered Jerusalem, was arrested, tried and crucified. I read somewhere this year that maybe it’s assuming people don’t really “get” the sacrifice Jesus made and the suffering he endured for us. But maybe people actually “get it” much better than I think. We often don’t see a great turn-out for the Holy Week services, and, as Christians, it always seemed like we, as pastors, need to “drive home” the point of Jesus suffering and death. Anyway, I decided to do just the Palm and hope and pray that folks really paid attention to the events of Holy Week and maybe participate.
So I started out thinking this would be a joyful parade and celebration during worship, and yet I find myself feeling a sense of dread even as the parade runs through my mind. Of course, we know the whole story, and Jesus’ disciples certainly didn’t at that point. They probably believed that he was finally entering Jerusalem to gather his army and finally take over. That was the idea of what the true Messiah would do, so it must have been exciting for them. But this is an ominous parade. There is our understanding of dreadful events to come, events that include betrayal, denial, humiliation, excruciating pain, unbelievable suffering for Jesus.
Somehow, the thought of setting up Easter/Spring flowers on the Saturday before Easter seems almost too happy if we think about what the disciples would have experienced following Jesus’ death and burial. In most households the day after a death is quiet and reflective, trying to let things settle in a little. Not so with us in the Christian Church – we are busy preparing to celebrate once again the joyful news that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Again, foreknowledge of the events helps us to know that in the midst of the darkest week of Jesus’ life, there is light, hope, life, reconciliation, forgiveness at the end of the week – more about that next week.
This Sunday we will wave our palm leaves and sing songs of “Hosanna to the King” or Son of David, but the cloud will hang over us. The cloud will threaten our joy and lead us once again through the week that reminds us of God’s great love for us and the gift we have been given through Jesus, the Christ. Sometimes we know that we have to go through tough experiences, such as surgery or loss or a medical procedure. We don’t look forward to it, but we know we have to go through it in order to be healthier on the other side. Maybe that’s a little like Palm Sunday with joyful entry into Jerusalem. It’s an ominous parade, isn’t it?