Tomorrow begins Holy Week as we wave our palms celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The church calls this day Palm Sunday.
As I prepare for Palm Sunday and Holy Week this year I think about how I would react to the events leading up to Jesus’ death if I was experiencing it for the first time while it all unfolds.
Every year, on this, the first day of Holy Week, we read about the crowds waving their palms, laying down their cloaks and shouting hosanna in the highest to this guy named Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.
I imagine myself getting caught up in the celebration, I picture myself yelling and celebrating. I imagine how happy everyone is when they see Jesus riding in like he is royalty, like he is going to change the world. And he will change the world, just not in the way they expect.
In fact, I feel a little embarrassed for how sure everyone seems to be as they cheer and shout for joy because soon their shouts will turn from “hail him” to “nail him.”
I start to feel anxious because I know that they are only singing his praise because they don’t understand what is going to happen next.
I really wish that I could travel back to that day outside Jerusalem, try and stop all of this from taking place. I want to find a way to be an example for others, to truly listen to Jesus and to help everyone understand what is about to happen. The shouts of joy will fade and the betrayal, denial and abandonment will begin.
Instead of calling Jesus the King of Kings he will wear a crown of thorns. Jesus will be forced to carry his cross to the place where he will die.
Then they will understand they will see that all their joyful shouting was not necessary in the shadow of death.
But they should have known!!! They should have understood what was going to take place because Jesus did not keep it a secret! He told them more than once that this was all going to happen.
Every time they saw Jesus do something amazing like heal someone or feed thousands of people his followers would celebrate. As he had their attention he would take the time to teach them, to tell them that things will come to an end and he will fall into the hands of the authorities, and suffer a painful death. They should have known that this day would come. Instead of following him to Jerusalem, they should have gone down another road.
I ask myself why they let this happen. Then I remember what Peter tried to do. Peter did what my impulse would be which is to say “Don’t go into Jerusalem, Jesus. Because that’s where the prophets get themselves killed and you’re too good to lose. There must be something we could do.” That’s what we all would have said right?
But the truth is, Holy Week was an unstoppable series of events and when Peter tried to talk Jesus out of it, Jesus didn’t pat him on the back and say “thank you Peter, you are a good friend.” Instead Jesus said “Get behind me Satan!”
No amount of convincing, plotting, good intentions, or prayer could have stopped the events of Holy Week. No wisdom or hindsight could have made a difference for God’s determination to draw all people to God’s self through Jesus lifted high on a cross.
It had to happen this way. There had to be crowds who shout praise, friends who betrayed and followers who denied. There had to be women who wept, soldiers who mocked and thieves who believed. It would have happened like this even if this happened now instead of then. Even if we knew everything in advance we would be the ones on the street, shouting Hosanna and praise him and a few days later shout crucify him.
This idea that we would do the same thing hits me in the heart, it pains me to think that I would do something like that. Then I think about it a little more and I realize that this is good news because this means we are the people of Holy Week.
We are the people that God has come to save. God did not become human and dwell among us as Jesus to save only a certain group of people. Jesus did not only save those who know him, those who live a perfect life, those who supported him every step of the way. Jesus came to save those who betray, those who deny, those who feel like they don’t belong.
To hear the news that it is okay if we screw up, it is okay if we turn our back, it is okay if we feel like we don’t belong because in God’s eyes we are all loved. ALL OF US!!
During this important time of the year you don’t have to have it all figured out. Because of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection it doesn’t matter if you are black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor you have a seat at the table of the Lord. It doesn’t matter if you have never been to a Palm Sunday worship service and if you have no idea what Maundy Thursday means — you are welcome and God loves you.
Don’t worry about coming to church this week for the right reasons. Just come. Come to wave branches, come to shout praise for the wrong reasons, come to eat a meal, have your feet washed, grab at coins, shout crucify him and walk away when the cock crows (when you hear the stories you will understand). You belong. Because we are the ones who God came to save, we are the ones that God loves, we are the people that Jesus died for and nothing will ever change that.
This first appeard in The Gardner News on March 19, 2016
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