BIBLE READING:   Luke 19: 28-44

 

SERMON

Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!

These words od praise plunge us into Palm Sunday: branches waving, draped cloaks, and hosannas resounding. Lent is over – all that fasting and giving up stuff. We hear the cry, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” and we catch a brief glimpse of Jesus as coming king. Finally there is light in the darkness!

The crowds that gathered 2000 years ago are relieved; it’s not Lent that troubles them, but a lifetime of heaviness, oppression and persecution. At last Jesus will take hold of Jerusalem! Maybe there is even a little bit of smugness on the faces of the crowd; finally the powers that reign are going to be put in their place. “That will show those Roman occupiers who our God really is!”

Maybe there is a little smugness in our celebration. Unlike the original Palm Sunday crowds, we stand in history after the events of Holy Week. We believe Jesus is not only a worthy king, but we know that this humble donkey-rider will conquer even death itself in resurrection. But the crowd who cried Hosanna crowd has no idea the depth of what lies ahead - we think we do. So we smile confidently and sing our praises to God.

But what the crowd then, and so often now, seeks to avoid is the truth that if we follow Jesus into Jerusalem, humiliation and death will follow.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”

The triumphal entry is cut short as the opposition strikes, and gives voice to the dark underbelly of what is going to happen. In the chapters that follow we see the Temple cleared, traps laid, fatal betrayal, arrest and crucifixion. In five short days the triumphant crowd's cry has twisted from “Blessed is the king” to an ugly “Crucify Him!”

Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him…” (Luke 23:18)

 

In light of this, what are we to make of this parade?

The crowd on Palm Sunday seems to recognise Jesus. Even during the week, their presence protected him. But we know that their mood changed by Friday. Once Jesus was in the hands of the rulers, once he no longer seemed to have power, then the recognition faded that in this man God was visiting his people….

We like a God who seems ready to do something for us. On Palm Sunday when Jesus seemed powerful, the crowd followed. But when Jesus is Pilate’s prisoner, the same crowd turned away from him and back to the old leaders who again seemed in control.

It is great to celebrate Palm Sunday when the surroundings are joyful, but it’s even more important to sing “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” when it looks like the powerful are back in charge. When lies and betrayal stalk us. When prises dry up and criticism prevails. When mockery, arrest and death pursue us. When the one we thought would conquer Jerusalem hangs on a cross outside the city gates.

It’s here that our pride can be laid down and we can admit we did not know the cost of our Palm Sunday proclamation.

Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!

It cannot be silenced by the opposition. Jesus tells these foes that if the crowds were silent, even the stones would shout out.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

(Psalm 118:26-29)

 

Acknowledgments: Rev Heather Carlson; Dr. Catherine Gunsalus Gonzalez