Archive for March, 2007

PALM SUNDAY

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

 Nearly 2000 years ago euphoric scenes were witnessed in Jerusalem. The city was shaken by the power of the outpouring of praise as Jesus rode into the city. The streets were alive with the throng as even the children cried out shouts of praise – “Hosanna! (Save I pray!) Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Excitement filled the streets for they were witnessing prophecy fulfilled – “Behold your King is coming seated on a donkey’s colt”. The people rejoiced with exultation. Had they not witnessed the miracles! Had they not seen signs and wonders! Was this not the hope of Israel! Here was their King! God’s rule had come.

Jesus received the praise but He was not deceived, for He knew the real lack of depth of sentiment in the hearts of the people. He knew the things that He must suffer at the hands of the authorities and He also knew that these same people would turn on Him and cry, “crucify Him” in less than a week’s time. But still He came! God’s ways are not our ways. To establish His kingdom first He had to shatter all the illusions that His people held about themselves.

On Palm Sunday the people were convinced that God’s blessing had come upon them, as indeed it had, but they had not understood just exactly what that blessing was or how to fully receive it, and when the cost of believing became too high for their understanding to continue hoping, they cursed Him whom they had praised, and counting themselves wiser in their own eyes than He, they judged Him.

We all count our ramshackle lives worth saving, but, when it comes to facing the reality, that the only thing worth saving is Christ’s love and will for us, and that to receive this blessing we must first turn from all of our own wisdom and belief and trust solely in Him – “unless a man hates his own life he cannot be My disciple” – we, like them, find we cannot believe and become His judges rather than His disciples.

Today we have a thousand and one reasons why we cannot believe. We might believe Jesus was a good man, we might think that His ‘sermon on the mount’ was profound, but to actually believe that He was born of a virgin we find impossible, for science teaches us otherwise. We might believe that He did good deeds but we cannot believe literally in His miracles, for science teaches us otherwise. We prefer to believe the evidence of our own eyes, for that which we have experienced, is to us, more likely to be real than a story that seems to contradict everything that we think we know about life. In this we are not unique. The people of Israel faced the same problems when they found themselves unable to fully accept and believe in Christ.

Today the Church lies stagnant. To commemorate this great day – Palm Sunday – they hold a rally for world peace. In a way this is no different to the people of Israel wanting a worldly King – a King they could understand – rather than the deeper spiritual Kingdom that Jesus was opening to them. Our hope for peace is as fragile as their hope for a great King and, like them, when our hope is not fulfilled we will turn against God. For we are not hoping for God’s peace but for a peace of our own choosing.

The disciples however, those who truly believed and followed, grew through the turmoil of the turbulent last week of Jesus’ earthly life. They were drawn into a deeper embrace of Jesus’ love. “This is My body broken for you,” He said as He inaugurated communion. They were no longer slaves but friends! They had left all and followed Him and here they found themselves not knowing what the future held as they were being prepared for His departure. With sorrow too deep for words they fell asleep as Jesus sweat blood in the Garden. In a show of heroic strength Peter sliced off the ear of a slave as the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. Later in a moment of panicked unbelief he denied the same Lord. All the disciples fled, but John was bold enough to be at the foot of the Cross, with Mary the Lord’s mother, as Jesus breathed His last.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that first ‘Palm Sunday’ He knew all that was to come. As He heard the peoples’ cries of the profession of their faith He saw through their exuberance into the real frailty of the belief they walked in. Yet He came! Even though the multitude did not know the real spiritual state they were in, He did. He knew that the only way to free His people from their unbelief was to bear with it, endure it, and triumph over it, revealing through His suffering the real unchanging faithfulness and power of God.

His disciples were taught through the experience of His death to not put their trust in anything which is perishing or in that which is only to be found in the world of the senses, but in His resurrection where He revealed the life that was to come. Those that had left all to follow Him were not disappointed. Through His faithfulness He perfected them in their faith and enabled them through His Spirit to walk as men alive from the dead.

We today should bear these things in mind when we hear our Hosannas proclaimed.

“Save us Lord! Not from the hostility of man, but rather from our hostility toward You. For in this world there will always be wars and rumours of war, but we seek peace. Not the peace of this world but peace with You. For Your peace is real peace and even though this world will pass away Your peace will last forever.”