Scripture: Luke 19:28-40
*Audio available below*
Have you ever received bad news in the midst of other people’s celebration and excitement? In those situations you try to go along with the occasion not trying to put a damper on things, you might even put on a brave face so no one knows the difference. I remember when I found out my mother was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, it rocked my world. It was the first time in my adult life that one of my immediate family members had been confronted with mortality and it was a real shock to my system – contemplating what life might be like without my mother in my life if all things went poorly.
Because she also works in the Anglican Church world in Toronto, I had to keep everything very close to the vest until she was ready to share the news with her superiors – and so in the midst of all our worship and celebrations here at Grace and beyond I bore this sadness and potential grief of loss. As most of you know all turned out well, she is now in good health, but it gave me a window into the turmoil any one of us can experience when we receive bad news.
I am sure that many of you have experienced the same thing throughout your lives. The muted celebrations and deep sadness that may only be visible in your eyes while the world around you celebrates or gives their praises for some occasion or another.
I wonder if you were in the crowd that day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, and if you had looked deeply into his eyes, if you would have seen the same thing – the same deep sadness in his eyes as the world around him erupted in joy and celebration.
Today, we celebrate Palm Sunday, we wave palms we sing Hosanna and it is seemingly a day full of joy in the midst of the penitence and sombreness of Lent. Almost like a reprieve before the heavy lifting of Holy Week and Good Friday begin. But Palm Sunday isn’t a break before Holy Week it is the beginning, it is the beginning of the road to the cross.
But in reality the triumphal ride was no joyous occasion for Jesus, this wasn’t his victory parade or his moment of glory. Jesus had on three occasions foretold his death highlighting Jerusalem as the place it would happen, the final one coming in chapter 18 of Luke’s gospel, just before he made his way into the city.
Additionally our passage is followed by Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, weeping for the city that did not recognize him for who he was and would be crushed because it did not understand the true price of peace.
Jesus knew full well what awaited him as he set his face and made his way to Jerusalem – he knew full well what his moment of glory would be.
Even as his disciples feted him like a king, honouring him with a prize colt, with their cloaks for a seat and to pave the way in, to the city, with louds shouts and praises – Jesus knew that he wasn’t the kind of King his disciples were expecting, his throne wasn’t destined to be polished marble of Herod’s Palace but rather the gnarled wood of the Roman cross.
Jesus knew that his moment of glory was yet to come, he knew that his glory wasn’t one of a conquering hero overthrowing by the strength of his arm but rather his moment of glory was destined to be that of a suffering servant, bearing all the pain, sin and death the world could throw at him in his body.
Jesus knew that only his suffering and death would bring about the blessing and peace his disciples sang about as he rode into Jerusalem that day. Rather than a coronation parade, this was the beginning of Jesus’ own funeral procession but only he, and perhaps the Pharisees at the end of our passage, really knew the significance.
And so I can imagine Jesus’s enjoyment of the celebration would have been muted, it would have been part of the grand plan, but his face was set towards Jerusalem, it was resolved to see God’s plan for the reconciliation and restoration of the world even though it meant intense suffering, pain and abandonment for him.
Palm Sunday with all the joy and celebration, the waving of Palms and the shouts of Hosanna is the beginning of Holy Week, it is the beginning of our understanding of the Gospel paradox – that ultimately the love, joy and goodness that God intended for the world could only come through the misery, suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross.
If we were tasked with saving the world, never in a million years would we choose to save it through suffering and death. Scott Hoezee writes “In one sense it is awfully surprising that when the Son of God came to this earth, he died so hideous a death in order to save us. At the same time, however, given the bloody state of affairs we so routinely encounter in this world, it seems also inevitable that God would save us in precisely the way he did.”
To deal with our betrayals, Jesus needed to be betrayed by those closest to him.
To deal with the ways we abandon God and one another, Jesus needed to be completely abandoned by his friends.
To deal with all the brokenness and sin in the world, Jesus needed to be broken by the sin of the world.
To defeat the power of death in our lives, Jesus needed to suffer the brutal truth of death in his life.
To restore our humanity in the image of God, Jesus needed to experience the utter dehumanization and degradation of the cross.
To ensure that we were never separated from the love and presence of God, Jesus had to endure being utterly forsaken and separated from the life of the Father.
To bring us eternal and abundant joy, Jesus needed to experience the sorrow and pain of the week ahead.
Today, with Jesus, let our Palm Sunday celebrations be muted because we know what is to come this week, we know what suffering awaits our Lord even as we celebrate him as King today with the crowds in our Gospel reading who laid their coats and shouted songs of praise to welcome his “triumphant” entry into Jerusalem.
Today we remember that Jesus is King, he is king that reigns from the wood of the Cross rather than the corridors of power and privilege like every other King or leader of in the world.
Today we remember that Jesus is a king who identifies completely with our humanity – even those times where our deep sorrow and grief is masked by the celebration of those arounds us.
Today our joy is muted, but next week it will be unfettered by the chains of sin and death. Today, our eyes share Jesus’ tears and bear the grief that awaits him and us at the hands of this broken world, but next Sunday those same tears will be turned to shouts of joy by the one who promises to wipe every tear from every eye and fill our hearts with abounding joy even in the midst of sorrows of this world.
May we all meditate upon and get to know this king more deeply this week as we walk with him to the cross and join with him in this funeral procession today. And may God’s joy burst forth in us next week as we celebrate his resurrection.
Let us pray.
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