Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are three-in-one.
Today is a day of Hosannas. A day we remember the King of kings taking His rightful place as sovereign Lord. We look back to a day the Jews had long waited for. The day their Messiah would ride in through the East gate as prophesied, meekly on a donkey yet full of majesty.
This is a day we wave our palms much like the crowd that greeted Jesus. That day excitement filled the air, yet something wasn’t quite right. Though they should have been the most excited, the Scribes and Pharisees are not joining the crowds in their reverie. They stand silent.
And something in the Messiah’s face seems odd. It looks as if He’s been crying. Somehow there is both happiness and sorrow in His face. What could be wrong, especially on this great day of celebration?
What they didn’t know was that within Jesus, there was frustration. Frustration at the blindness of their praise which would soon turn to calls for His death. Frustrations because of the miracles the church leaders wouldn’t believe. Frustrations of the oncoming desertion of those he would need most. Yes, He was happy because He knew that salvation for all believers was coming, but also frustrated that so many would become so blind to the gift they were being offered.
Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday as it is sometimes called, is both a time of faithful sweet Hosannas and a time of continuing frustration. The hour had come for the Son of Man to be glorified, yet so many could not see.
We can only imagine what Jesus must have been thinking as He made His grand entrance. He knew the devil was hard at work but He longed so much for His people to defeat Satan, strengthened by their joy of the coming Messiah. He longed for all who were shouting their Hosannas to remain strong and vigilant against the misguided Pharisees. He yearned for them to believe what many of them had seen but, as it says in John 12:37, “Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him.”
Many have seen the signs. They have heard the very voice of God. They had seen the blind given sight, the deaf made to hear and the mute to speak yet they just didn’t completely perceive this man of miracles.
This day is really a lot more complex than our Hosannas show. Because, despite the shouts of glee, many would soon turn on Him. They would call for Him to be hung on a cross to die, only after being beaten, spit upon and mocked in the process. Crucify Him! Would be their cry. Crucify Him!
How can we celebrate something so painful? How can we ring out our Hosannas and waive our palms when we know that the tide will soon turn.
We hear this story every year. We hear of Jesus setting His face towards Jerusalem committed to doing what He must. We hear Him filled with sorrow over Jerusalem and we see Him doing the only thing that can save them. Despite their shallow praise and forthcoming desertion, He would fulfill God’s promise because His love would never waver. We hear it all in Christ’s Words, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father glorify Your name.”
So, now that I may have frustrated you too, let me tell you why frustration is no longer of any use to us. It has everything to do with purpose. Christ did not ride into Jerusalem unprepared. He did not get drunk on all the adulation that might stop Him from achieving His goal. He rode with majesty because He truly was riding in as our King. He rode in with determination to set right what had gone so desperately wrong. His purpose was to be the perfect sacrifice for us. It was literally what He was born to become.
He knew that the Messiah had to lifted up. He knew that the only way to save mankind was to take all of our sin upon Himself, because, as God’s own perfect Son, He was the only one who could possibly do it.
Was Jesus frustrated? We know by His words that He was. But it wasn’t frustration that drew Jesus to the cross. It was a love born out of purpose that held Him there. It was a resolve to do what the prophets had foretold. This wasn’t just a chance engagement; this event had been set since sin entered the world.
I think back to this first Palm Sunday, and it leads me to wonder about us. What crowd do we associate most with? The crowd shouting out their urgent faith-filled Hosannas or the crowd just singing about what they little understand. Do we truly comprehend the gift He has given or are we just playing the part all the while not realizing that we truly must depend on Him for our very existence mortally and eternally?
During Lent we look at those things that drove Jesus to the cross. We are called to recollect our own sinful nature and the harm that it causes. But we are also looking towards better things. Those things that have taken us from death to life. The promises fulfilled so that we might both see and comprehend paradise. Lent exists to help us realize those words of Jesus, “For this purpose I have come.”
In our Gospel lesson we see people very much like ourselves. They have trouble believing something so grand. They struggle to confess and proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah.
Paul described it in this way in 1 Corinthians 2: 6-8,
“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
Much like the crowd that day, we sometimes find it hard to sing our Hosannas and sustain them. We take our Savior lightly when we should be giving Him our very lives. We become frustrated with the world and let it damage the faith we have in the one we are to give our frustrations to.
Yet, God understands our frustrations and our weakness, just as He understood the weakness of those who were singing their Hosannas that day. By His love, He continues to strengthen us. Empowered by this great love, He came to kill the frustration within us. The frustration strengthened by doubt and dismay but vanquished in Godly grace.
The more Jesus hears those Hosannas, the more passionate He becomes to bring them the help they seek. The more He hears their cries to crucify Him, the more determined He is to save them.
The beauty of Palm Sunday does not lie in the Hosannas. It is not defined by those laying palms before Him. Palm Sunday is all about Jesus and His willing sacrifice. Now, our true Hosannas can ring because all that had frustrated His people had been taken away.
The beauty of Palm Sunday is in the fact that, despite the ignorance of those who would shout out their false praises, Christ rode on through the crowd so that He might die to save them. He knew what must be done. That is where the beauty of Palm Sunday lies.
Hebrews chapter 12 tells us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Despite the frustration, Palm Sunday is truly a beautiful day to remember. It’s a day we use to praise our Savior who did what He must, who knew what His purpose on earth was and who steadfastly went about making things right.
Therefore, we will continue to sing our Hosannas. We will continue to cry out “save us Lord!” And we will continue to worship the only one who could have done so much for those He loved. Hosanna to the King of Kings. Amen.