Reading: Matthew 21:1-11
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Palm Sunday for me has always felt like a bit of a two-edged sword. Shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” has always felt like a victory chant as we parade around with our palms held high. Yet, we know just exactly where our shouts of Hosanna will take us as they become shouts of “Crucify him!” Each Palm Sunday we shout in victory only to see the defeat come just days later.
Each Palm Sunday we were truly blessed at my home congregation to have wonderful musical talent among us. A robust, dark-haired man we called Hap, and his sister, Marie, graced us with their amazing rendition of the song, “The Holy City.” Hap sang in the deepest bass voice I have ever heard, switching between that and playing the clarinet. He was accompanied on the piano by the multi-talented Marie. Marie somehow managed to keep up with Hap, who sang effortlessly in his own timing, and sometimes his own key! It was without a doubt always heartfelt, passionate, and flawless. The words forever echo in my mind each Lent as we approach Palm Sunday:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Lift up your gates and sing, Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna to your king!”….
“The sun grew dark with mystery, The morn was cold and chill, As the shadow of a cross arose, Upon a lonely hill!”….
“No need of moon or stars by night or sun to shine by day, it was the new Jerusalem that would not pass away!”
And in that tearful melody there it is. The reason Palm Sunday feels off, confusing even. So many emotions leading to the cross: the king who really never took on the role of a king (as the world understood kings); this king who rode a donkey, was a friend to the lowly, and wore a crown, not of jewels, but of thorns; this king who, nonetheless, truly saved the world from sin and death. As we remember Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem, we hail him king, we remember the cross, and we wait in anticipation for the new life that will surely come from death.
Heavenly Father as we journey closer to the cross, we remember you are our king forevermore. You suffered and died to save us, and we await that glorious day when the tomb is empty and death is overcome!