Palm Sunday - April 10, 2022
Luke 28:19-40 (CEB)
Rev. Ron Carlson
Conference Superintendent, Camp Clear Lake District
Luke 28:19-40 (CEB)
28 After Jesus said this, he continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. 30 He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’” 32 Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “Its master needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it. 36 As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road. 37 As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. 38 They said, “Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.” 39 Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”
One of my favorite memories is rooted in Palm Sunday tradition. Over 26 years ago, not long after I remarried and started back to being a church going person again, we took our children to church on Palm Sunday. That church had the Palm Sunday tradition of having the children process at the beginning of the service with their palm branches waving in both hands as they went. Our youngest son was not experienced in church and had only attended a few times in his life (my bad, as I was in a different place) and he was still not sure what the church thing was about. On this Sunday, he was part of a 20 something group of children responsible for leading the procession that included pastor and the choir. As our eyes met, I was pretty sure the look he gave me was a horror filled “What have you gotten me into?” as he slowly trudged up the aisle holding his palms out to his side, so they barely moved at all.
Trent does not remember this event today, but Beth and I re-live it every Palm Sunday. We watch the processions and re-live Trent’s story and the biblical story we know so well. We know that the coming week is filled with stories of food, service, torture and death. We place ourselves in the story and we wonder how we would have reacted. We think we would be cheering and there for Jesus to the end. We can't really appreciate or understand why the crowds turned on Jesus so quickly.
Trent had a look of horror because he had never seen this type of display before. However, entrance processions were a familiar ceremony in the first century. Luke relates Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem in our passage today. Numerous kings and conquering generals had entered Jerusalem over the years and this type of ceremony was common and well understood. The problem was that Jesus was unlike any king they ever had known.
Jesus’ arrival brought great hope to the crowds gathered as they mixed with his rag-tag group of disciples. There were high expectations of Jesus at this point as seen on the Road to Emmaus when the travelers shared, “We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel.” The crowds wanted Jesus and God to do something beautiful and amazing, and it was sitting right there in front of him, he just needed to reach out and grab it, raising the common Jewish folks in the process. This was the moment that they had been looking toward for their entire lives. Jesus did have an amazing moment in front of him, and God was about to do God things, just not in the way the crowds wanted or expected.
How many times in our lives have we been in a similar space? We are close to a goal, or we are about to accomplish something we have been chasing for years, only to have the ending changed in a dramatic way that feels as if the rug has been pulled from under us. If God had only done what we wanted, things would have been better or different. Given the wrong outcome, temporary or permanent, our attitude flips completely, and we waver in our love of God, if even in small ways. I don’t know about you, but I have been there many times.
As we reflect and give space to our unexpected or undesired result, in our minds eye we know better. But in the moment, we lash out at all who are close to us. The same thing happened to those who welcomed and cheered Jesus on that day so long ago. Their desired outcome was being ripped from them and they reacted badly. It was only after there was space between them and the events of Holy week that they could begin to understand that God was in the plan, and Jesus did redeem all of Israel.
On this Palm Sunday, do you feel that God failed you like the Hebrew people 2200 years ago or do you wonder what have you gotten yourself into like the little 6-year-old in the procession of palms? You are not alone in these feelings, and they do not make you a bad person. As we go through this week, we have the chance to remember the amazing work God did through Jesus, even if it was not what the cheering masses wanted or expected. May God continue to work through you in similar ways
Gracious God, like those gathered and cheering at the first procession of palms with your Son, help us to be excited to be near you. Help us to release control to you, even when we do not get the results we originally expected. Give us assurance you are with us, and you will continue on this journey we call life, now and forever AMEN.