“The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Blessed is the King of Israel.’” (John 12:12-13).
My eyes found their tears yesterday…somewhere along the second stanza of “All Glory Laud and Honor.” I wanted it to matter to them. Truth is…it probably didn’t. At least not beyond the moment.
Marching in cadence with the pastor’s pace, they waved their branches. Twenty or so bearers of the palms…two of whom I call my own. I was moved by their participation. As quickly as they entered, they exited, leaving their palms as a witness of their presence…of having been a part of this occasion. An occasion meant for remembrance, and yet, probably one that sketched little significance across their hearts.
Palm Sunday. A day of announcement. A day of initiation. A day of pilgrimage to the one feast that should not be missed. Jesus’ Easter moment is just around the corner, and I am afraid I have done a poor job of preparing the hearts of my children for such a visitation.
How does one begin to prepare for such an occasion? An occasion that scripts pageantry alongside passion? Celebration alongside crucifixion? Shouts of acclamation alongside shouts of disdain? How can such lavish expression of opposing emotions sketch their existence within the same frame? How can we embrace Calvary when our hearts hunger for palms and pageantry?
We can because Christ did. Jesus embraced his inevitable.
“‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.’” (Matthew 21:2-3).
Jesus began his pilgrimage to Calvary on the back of donkey. Gently, he approached his inevitable with tears in his own eyes. He wanted this moment to matter to them. Truth is…for most of them, it mattered little. He knew this would be the case, even as he voiced the sadness within…
“‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’” (Luke 19:42).
But their eyes could not vision beyond their palms of welcome and their pleas for rescue.
Palms. Palms of splendor, reserved for royalty. For triumphed victory over the enemy. For kingdom moments graced with a king’s presence. For parades atop the cloaks and branches of a peoples’ homage.
Pleas. Pleas for deliverance. Pleas for release…for liberation…for relief. “‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Hosanna!—Save us! Please save us now! Be the righteous salvation that the prophet Zechariah foretold (Zechariah 9:9).
Palms and pleas and pageantry. All fodder for a good parade. Christ allowed them their moment, even though their eyes were temporarily blinded to its significance. He knew there would come a day…a day beyond this first Palm Sunday…when we would remember and realize that, in fact, the King did process. That the battle was won over the enemy. That a Savior has come…is come…to deliver, to rescue, to liberate and to relieve.
Jesus knew that Easter stood on the other side of his surrender. Resurrection awaited his arrival. It would be a long walk between the two, but willingly he embraced the journey.
He asks us to do the same. To take time to recall these sacred moments of his history. Our King has conquered death. Our Savior has conquered sin. He, alone, is worthy of our palms and our parades and our hosannas. Our participation in such sacred remembrance matters to him, for it speaks of a day yet to come.
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7:9-10).
Palm Sunday 2000 years ago. Palm Sunday 2008. Palm Sunday in a season yet to come. Who can fathom the mysteries of our God?
Let us not rush to Easter. We are quick to move from one Sunday to the next. Could it be that God is calling us to tarry awhile longer on the road with his Son? He has called me to such an embrace, and so this day I bring my palms and my pleas and wave them before my King. I lay my filthy cloak at his feet and ask him to consecrate it with his own. To step high and wide and long and deep until my soul is embedded with the footprint of his soles…marked forever for kingdom living. Truth is…it matters to me a great deal. It means everything to me, and so I pray…
Humbly, Father, I bring my palms and my pleas and my filthy rags and lay them all before you this day. You are worthy of a far greater offering, and yet your grace readily receives my homage. Forgive me, Lord, when I forget your walk of surrender…when I callously process through tradition rather than submitting to sacred remembrance. Walk over my life, Lord, until all that can be seen are the footprints that will lead others on the path to Calvary. I submit my heart and my feet for such a journey. Amen.
peace for the journey~elaine