Monday, March 30, 2015

Palm Sunday: Not Such a Celebration

Before you read the title of this entry and close out of my blog, shaking your head, I ask you to stick with me for little while.

I have been a Christian for 11 years now and I have attended a Palm Sunday service for 11 years. I thought I knew the story of Palm Sunday, about how Jesus entered into the city, riding on a donkey, and everyone cheered and welcomed him. That's the story you know too, right?

Well, as it turns out, most churches don't focus on the whole story. Sure, I've read the passage in the bible that is titled "The Triumphal Entry." I've most likely heard sermons about the whole story. But, apparently, I have never really grasped or paid attention to how the passage ends. Yesterday, Pastor Sarah, at the church I attend, focused her sermon on parts of the passage that I had never heard focused on before. Maybe it's just me, but I've always thought of Palm Sunday as this day to celebrate. But really, it's not.

To spare you having to look it up yourself, I'm going to share the entire passage with you. This is Luke 19:28-44.

"After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it.'" 

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just has he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, 'Why are you untying the colt?' They replied, 'The Lord needs it'. They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on it and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glorying in the highest heaven!" 

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" "I will tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!"

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and will hem you in on every side. The will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you". 

The beginning of the passage certainly looks like celebration, right? Does an image like this come to your mind? 

Pastor Sarah described this scene as a bit of a mob mentality. The people were there because they heard that the Messiah was coming to their city. Some people believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but others did not, and were basically gathering to see for themselves. Pastor Sarah said, "Everyone loves a parade". However, the people that weren't sure that Jesus was the Messiah were disappointed. The prophecy that existed said that the Messiah would come into the city shining brightly and riding on a big white horse. The prophecy also stated that the Messiah will ride in on that horse and completely overthrow the government, bringing peace. This Jesus was not riding a horse, he was riding a stubborn mule. He did not ride in and save the day, he simply came in calmly. However, the people, not wanting to ruin a good parade, cheered and waved palm leaves anyway, even though they doubted that this was the true Messiah. Most people simply just did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. 

In the words of Pastor Sarah, "The people at the parade who shouted, "Hosanna!" were the same people who, five days later, yelled "Crucify Him!" 

As Jesus approached Jerusalem, after hearing these people shout praises to God, he did not react in joy. He did feel worshiped and loved. He was sad. Desperately sad. And he wept for these people, for us. He wept because these people did not recognize peace when they saw it. 

Jesus did not come to bring peace by overthrowing the government. Jesus was the peace. Jesus is the peace. 

It was the doubt of the people that lead to the death of Jesus, just five days later. The same people who shouted praises through their doubt, were the same people who condemned Jesus to die. 

Palm Sunday is not a day of celebration, not really anyway. People celebrated because they felt like they should, not because they truly believed. And that had dire consequences for our Messiah. 

Thankfully, we can learn from that mistake. We know now that Jesus is our Messiah and we have a real reason to celebrate, to wave those palm leaves, and shout "Hosanna!" to our God. In the future, when you wave those palm leaves, mean it, truly mean it, because now we know just have much damage doubt can do. 

"Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, call out among the scoffers"

***Foot note: I realize that there are probably many, many people who know about the end of this story and this post doesn't teach you anything new. You may even be shocked that a Christ follower of 11 years is so shocked by the end of this passage. But, like I said, it seems like in past years, I have completely ignored the sad part of this story and just celebrated Palm Sunday has a happy occasion. This post is simply me sharing my thoughts on the matter.****

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