Matthew 21:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version)
1When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:
What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What leaves me scratching my head?
What delights me in this text? What do I like about it?
What stories or memories does this text stir up in me? You might remember a time when you borrowed something from someone or attended a parade, for example.
What is God up to in this text? What is God calling me to do or to be in this text?
When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for Palm Sunday. The opportunity to dress up, almost in my Easter best, to wave palm branches as we paraded around the church, and to sing a song I was convinced was written just for us:
All glory, laud, and honor,
to you, redeemer, king,
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring! (LBW #108)
I truly loved this holiday, because we, the children of the congregation, were actually mentioned. And in song! You know how the saying goes, “From the mouths of babes!”. On Palm Sunday, the children of God got it right. Jesus shows up as a humble king, and the crowd responds by literally taking the coats off of their backs, spreading branches from nearby trees on the ground, and joining in the parade. They shout “Hosanna to the Son of David!” which literally means “Save us, Lord, king of David’s line!” They called him blessed, and say he comes in the name of the Lord. When the people of the city gather in confusion, the crowd tells them that he is “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” On this day, on this one day, they get it right.
The problem with Palm Sunday is that we celebrate Jesus as king while also knowing what awaits him during Holy Week. The crowd believes that he will take his place on the literal throne of Israel, cast the Roman government out, and the people of God will be ruled on earth once again by a wise, powerful, Jewish king. Instead, Jesus, the Son of God, comes among us to bring about the kingdom of God. He kneels at the feet of his friends like the lowliest slave. He offers them his body as true bread and his blood as true drink. He commands them to love one another as he prepares to go to a place where no one can follow. He is betrayed and arrested. He is tried in two separate courtrooms. He is mocked and beaten. And then the crowd shows up again.
This time, they get it horribly wrong. This time, their cry is not “Save us!” or “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” but rather “Crucify him!” and “His blood be on us and on our children” and “Crucify him!” And Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of God, the true king, is nailed to a cross, lifted up between two criminals for all to see, and dies.
If nothing else, Holy Week is a stark reminder of what life is like. There are times when our faith is strong and we do, indeed turn to God in prayer. There are times when we clap, and celebrate, and just can’t keep from singing. And there are times when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and question our faith, and refuse to admit that we belong to him.
But the truth is, Jesus is right there with us, no matter what. In the best of times. In the worst of times. And in every time in between. Loving us. Forgiving us. Saving us. No matter what. For, as Paul writes:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 NRSV)
That, my friends, is why Holy Week is so very holy. We are faithless, but he is faithful. We get it right, and Jesus is there. We get it wrong, and Jesus is there. We work to kill what is truly holy, and God raises it from the dead. I look forward to walking with through through life, and death, into new life once again. See you in church,