Palm Sunday, March 24, 2013
Morning Psalms: 24, 29 | Evening Psalm: 103
Zechariah 9:9-12 | 1 Timothy 6:12-16 | Zechariah 12:9-13:1-9 | Matthew 21:12-17
A young man completing the requirements for a commercial driver’s license was asked what he would do if the brakes on his eighteen wheeler failed on a steep downhill with a stalled big rig at the bottom of the hill. He thought for a moment and said, “I would wake up my buddy Joe asleep in the passenger seat.” When asked why, he replied, “Joe ain’t never seen a big wreck before!”
Those celebrating Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem likely did not envision the “big wreck” that would occur on Good Friday when Jesus would be crushed by human sin, manifested in the collision of popular, religious, and political forces. No, the “big wreck” of Good Friday was beyond imagination in the midst of the celebration that greeted Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem.
And Jesus’ arrival was no ordinary arrival. He fulfilled the imagery, prophesied years before in the writings of Zechariah, of Israel’s king arriving on a donkey as a sign of Israel’s restoration. Arriving on a donkey was significant because, in contrast to a horse, the donkey represented a king arriving in peace rather than conflict. The Prince of Peace arrives in peace to restore Israel—and all the nations—to a relationship with the Holy One of Israel.
How did this end in a “big wreck?” Perhaps the cheering crowds expected the donkey riding king to take on the Romans directly. Perhaps Roman political and Jewish religious authorities saw a threat to their power. Unmet expectations and threatened leaders would reveal the darkness of human sin as they violently execute the Prince of Peace.
Many congregations will sing Were You There? on Palm Sunday or during Holy Week. I wonder how my unmet and unrealistic expectations of the Lord cause me to replace Palm Sunday’s Hosanna with Good Friday’s “Crucify him!”
I wonder how Jesus’ offer of peace, forgiveness, and restoration threatens me so that I reject him. I wonder about the times I see injustice unfolding and wash my hands of any responsibility. I wonder if I am really willing to carry my own cross.
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first He suffered pain, and entered not into glory before He was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Very Rev. Anthony P. Clark (DMin Student)
Dean, The Cathedral Church of St. Luke
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