3/20/2016 Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday The text is the Passion Narrative –
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Boy, a lot can happen in a week! As Jesus entered Jerusalem for what would be his last time, the crowds gathered. They waved leafy palms and spread their cloaks upon the road in front of him. They shouted, “Hosanna,” and called themselves blessed by the presence of Jesus. But, that was the beginning of the week. By the end of the week, we’re talking another story. The crowds which had shouted, “Hosanna,” changed into a crowd which cried, “Crucify Him.” The crowd which had followed Jesus in order to see and touch and hear him had changed into a crowd which sought to take his life.
What in the world happened? How can so much change in one week? Where did everyone go who greeted Jesus with the fervor of faith as he entered Jerusalem?
Where did everyone go who greeted Jesus with shouts of Hosanna? Where were the followers of Jesus? Hiding in fear? Quiet in their conviction so that no one could identify them as followers of the crucified one? Riddled with doubt, perhaps? Or maybe unwilling to take a stand that might put them in jeopardy? Whatever the reason, these people who had proclaimed their loyalty and shouted their faith, left him. They left Jesus, their Lord, in the hands of those who would nail him to the cross. Yet, before we criticize this group of disciples for the inactivity in the face of this crisis, we should take a look at ourselves. For, I doubt if any of us would have done anything different.
We have a habit of not wanting to get involved in anything that may cost us, even if the cost is just a bit of time. That is a human trait and one which I am not proud of admitting, and it is a trait that I have experienced firsthand. Over the course of time, I’ve been involved in 5 fender benders, 5 minor accidents in which my car was hit. All of these incidents occurred in the middle of traffic. The worst one occurred a few years back on RT114 in North Andover when my car was hit so hard that I was pushed into the middle of the intersection. Yet, not one person bothered to stop to see if everyone was okay. Not one person bothered to stop to give testimony as to what happened even though they could clearly see the events unfold. Now, if people are reluctant to get involved in such minor ways, can we really expect people to get involved in an event which might cost them their lives?
Where were the people who had shouted the words of adulation on Palm Sunday? Maybe they just didn’t want to get involved. Maybe they were just too busy celebrating the Passover, getting their own lives in order, to notice what was happening around them. Or, maybe they were shedding quiet tears, watching the events unfold from a distance, feeling helpless against the Roman and religious authorities demanding Jesus’ life. Or, maybe they got caught up by the moment, and not really believing that Jesus was Lord, they joined in the crowd deriding him.
Whatever the reason, in his hours of deepest need, those whom Jesus called friends were not to be found. He was alone. Abandoned. Betrayed. He was beaten and mocked, and no one challenged the rightness of what was happening to him other than Pilate, the one who ultimately would sentence him to death, and one criminal, hanging on a cross beside Jesus.
Yet, through divine power, Jesus could have stopped it. He could have come down from the cross and abandoned his mission to these people who treated him so badly. Yet, in order to the fulfill scriptures and provide the glue to mend our broken relationships with God and each other, Jesus willingly shed his blood. Jesus willingly died for everyone who doesn’t have the courage to stand firm in faith. He willingly died for those who run away in fear and who turn a deaf ear in order to avoid getting involved. He willingly died for those who spend their lifetime doubting. For, Jesus did not come into this world for the sake of perfect people. He came and gave his life for the sake of human beings who sometimes exhibit traits which are unbecoming of the children of God. He came and he died for people like you and me, people who need to hear his words from the cross over and over again… “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” and “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
On this day, may Jesus’ final words ring in your ears and in your hearts, and may they give you hope and courage…hope for a secure tomorrow and the courage to get involved, involved in a relationship with Christ and with God’s people. Look, my friends, into the bruised and bloody face of the savior who willing gave up everything for us and find in him your hope and your peace. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.