Palm Sunday

March 23, 2012

Topic: Passion Week

Jesus wept!

Yes! On Palm Sunday!

Most of us will remember Jesus deeply moved and weeping at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:33-35)—even though Jesus was soon about to raise him from the dead.

But Luke, in his narrative of Palm Sunday, shows Jesus weeping (19:41).

As he looked over Jerusalem, his body was wracked with deep sobs.

While the disciples and the crowds were singing jubilantly (19:37)—because they thought the long-awaited warrior-Messiah had finally arrived—Jesus could only weep.

The people shouted “Hosanna” (an expression which originally meant ‘Save us’ but later became a term of praise), expecting this Messiah to deliver them from the shackles of Roman rule. (Interestingly, this shout is not mentioned in Luke.)

But why did Jesus weep?

He foresaw the horrible destruction just around the corner (19:42-44). In a few decades (by AD 70), Jerusalem would be engulfed with unbearable sorrows.

Rome, the superpower, already on the ground, was soon coming with brutal retaliation for Jerusalem’s rebellion. Titus and his armies would destroy the city and the temple and brutally humiliate this nation which claimed to belong to God.

However, we must recognize a monumental truth: God had chosen Israel to bring his revelation and salvation to the whole world. Jerusalem was a chosen and called city. For a thousand years, God had been preparing the nation, through his prophets, to be ready to meet her Messiah. But what a long history of disobedience and rebellion!

God’s pain is that of a parent!

Instead of recognizing and welcoming Jesus the Messiah, God’s people are about to arrest the God-sent Messiah on trumped-up charges, rush him through a trial during the unearthly hours of the night, pull the skin off his back in a brutal flogging, and finally execute him in a surpassingly brutal manner as the worst of criminals.

However, Jesus does not weep for his impending sorrows. He weeps for the city of God’s people. Jesus weeps for Israel.

He weeps for us: we who often have not understood the time of God’s visitation! We say we want God—we (would have!) come to ‘church’ on days like this—and yet we want God on our terms.

Yes, Jesus weeps for us, for, like Jerusalem, we too do not know that it is the Cross that makes for our peace!

What does Palm Sunday mean for us?

Palm Sunday is the introduction to the Holy Week, the week where by faith we make our own pilgrimage to the foot of the Cross, and beyond. The Cross – where we find the absolute and final solution for all our ills.

But do we recognize the danger that lurks around the corner? “Rome”, the deceptive kingdom! The worldly kingdom of power and might, seeks to pull us all in.

But Jesus wants Jerusalem to repent and believe in God’s kingdom, being ushered in by God’s Kingly Messiah on a Cross!

Jesus came to fulfil what Israel had failed to accomplish.

Now as God’s Israel, Jesus was about to take the judgement of Israel upon himself.

On the cross he would bear all the sins of Israel. And then, in himself, he would now redefine and reconstruct Israel as those who are in him.

[Wish I had space here to explain this important reality—Jesus as Israel—as seen in the Gospels.]

Therefore, you see friends, there is a religious story that we sometimes concoct, born out of our traditions, our casual ideas, where we can handle God at a comfortable distance. We want God, but on our terms! Is that our story?

Or do we tend to believe the powerful story of worldly power, the story of Rome, the story of Power and Money?

Or would we be willing to believe the proclamation of the Kingdom? Jesus said: “The time is fulfilled; the Kingdom has come; Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

And to welcome us into the Kingdom life, Jesus went through the agonies of this week, and through the culmination of his earthly journey, via dolorosa, through the painful path!

So that we would believe this story and entrust our lives to God’s story line!

As we stare at the havoc that this pandemic is wreaking on our world, we cry “Hosanna” to a Savior. He has promised us the ultimate security, as the One who is the Resurrection and the Life!

May we with faith enter into and relive the events of this Holy week. Also, may we find at the end of it, a risen Saviour waiting for us, not weeping this time for us. But rather comforting us with his nail-pierced hands and his words of comfort, “Peace be with you!”

Let us enter this reality and live this truth!