Monday, March 26, 2018

Pondering Palm Sunday

Yesterday Christians celebrated Palm Sunday (some denominations call it Passion Sunday)—reenacting, remembering and celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Palm Sunday comes just one week before Easter Sunday.  The week from Palm/Passion Sunday to Saturday is called Holy or Great Week.  

According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt or donkey and was welcomed by the people as a king, some waving their cloaks and others waving palm branches,  covering his path with the same.  The people greeted Jesus shouting “Hosanna.”  That word has been given several interpretations, but it means literally “save now.”  The people thought Jesus was going to do what scripture, prophet, seer, priest, pharisee, and rabbi had said the promised Messiah would do—drive out the Romans and make Jerusalem (Israel) Great Again!  “Hosanna” was a plea for help, not a word of praise or worship.  “Save us now!” Save Jerusalem (our little space).  Save Israel (our little nation). The people who cheered thought the promised Messiah King had come.  (You see, they had done the same  thing for Jehu when he was proclaimed king many years previous—see 2 Kings 9:13—and they did the same years before when Simon Maccabaeus entered Jerusalem  after one of his notable victories—1 Maccabee 13:51).  Isn’t it interesting how history repeats itself?

Here is an interesting side-note.  According to the writer of the Book of Revelation (7:9) there will be yet another repeat of a Palm Sunday scenario.  Once again, he claims, the people will wave palm branches before the king:  “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 before the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”

People interpret the Bible in many different ways.  What do you make of the triumphal entry of Jesus long ago, the reenactment, celebration, and remembrance of it yesterday, and the message of the writer in the Book of Revelation?  What I see is a new crowd, quite different from that crowd crying to Jesus, “Hosanna!” or “Save Us!”  It is a different crowd from the one that gathered yesterday (as Catholic, Orthodox, Methodist, etc.) in churches around the world.  This new and different crowd, according to scripture, is a multitude that no one can count (and here is the real difference) this new and different crowd are “from every nation, tribe, people and language!”  They are not crying “Hosanna,” they are not saying, “Save us now.”  They have reached a new level of understanding, their minds have been transformed.  It is not about Jerusalem anymore.  It is not about Israel anymore.  It is not about America anymore.  It is about a beloved community that includes us all!

“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. 
 I must bring them also.  They too will listen to my voice,
 and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

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