8 Now a very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of Jesus and the ones that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 Jesus said to them, “It is written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’
but you are making it a den of robbers.”
14 The blind and the lame came to Jesus in the temple, and he cured them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that Jesus did and heard the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16 and said to Jesus, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, written,
‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise for yourself’?”
17 He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.
18 In the morning, when Jesus returned to the city, he was hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then Jesus said to the fig tree, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
Please pray with me this morning, church:
As we come to the end of Lenten journeys
And enter into Holy Week,
We join with the crowds in shouting “Hosanna!”—
“Lord, save us!”
Save us, God. Feed us. Nurture us. And sustain us.
By your love.
Good morning, church! Great to see you.
Welcome to Holy Week.
You look great this morning. Sound great, too. How’re you feeling?
Feeling good? Ready to tackle this week together?
I wonder, are you more of a full, expansive experience of Holy Week kind of person? Or more of a Sunday-only, just get me to Easter kind of person? We’ll get to more on this in a bit, but I just think it’s helpful to know what kind of energy we’re bringing to the space this morning.
I said you looked and sounded great this morning…I wonder how you felt? How are your “Hosannas” feeling this year? You know, every year I ask you to really get into the palm processional…to wave your palms, but to really get after it during the refrain of All Glory, Laud, and Honor. Do you do that? How vigorous is your palm shaking?
I used to be timid…like I imagine most of you are…”Pastor Chris, this is my excited waving.” Well, ok. I used to be a little more reserved, too. But then a few years back I taught the young ones about palm waving, and I asked them to help lead us in, and church, I don’t know if you know this about young people or not, but they kind of love to put on a show…and man, did they ever show me up. I thought I was being energetic… Not by a long shot. At least not compared to them.
And that experience has really helped inform the spirit I bring to Holy Week, broadly, and to Palm Sunday, more specifically. Worship doesn’t need to be all buttoned up all the time. Good and proper order, yes. But we can have fun. Worship can be tactile and experiential. We can move our bodies. Shake our rumps as the Spirit moves us. I know, I know…I’ve already gone too far for some you…I hear you…
But I wonder how you feel shaking your palms vigorously and singing “Hosannas”. What energy are your bringing to the space? Are you letting loose and getting into it? Or does it feel a little silly…a little foolish…?
This palm processional is not supposed to be so serious, church. It is a little silly, a little foolish. The whole triumphal entry is a little foolish. But the people’s participation in it…your participation in it…is also incredibly faithful.
Foolish, yes. And faithful.
Whenever Roman officials would enter into cities in the empire, they often rode big, impressive stallions. They wore fine robes and jewelry, crowns. They had accolades shouted at them. Imagine thousands of flowers falling around them. The processional entries were lavish and lauded affairs. Praise and honor being heaped upon the leader or the official or even the Caesar himself on certain occasions.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem wasn’t really intended to be a celebration. You’ll notice the similarities to the parades of the empire, but it’s really different. It’s kind of backwards. It’s a mockery of the Caesar and how the Romans would announce their entries into the city.
Foolish. And faithful.
It’s satire, it’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s comedy, and it’s theater.
It is a protest march. A display that flies in the face of the Roman decorum.
And amidst all of this, there’s an air of meaning and consequence. Like with all satire, there’s a sharp edge of truth that is convicting and that dissects right at the heart of the Roman parades that it’s critiquing. Rome operates this way…the kingdom of God operates completely differently.
Roman conquerors ride the white horse, the war-horse. The Messiah comes riding on a donkey proclaiming peace.
The powers of this world are crowned with laurels and gold. The Messiah will be crowned with thorns.
The Caesar is showered with flowers and perfume as he enters the city. The Messiah’s way is paved with cloaks and branches and palms.
The occupying Roman oppressors sit on thrones in magnificent palaces. The Messiah reigns affixed to a cross.
The Roman military machine maintains peace through conquest and oppression. The Messiah commands swords be beaten into ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks, guns into garden tools, instruments of death into instruments to nurture life.
The imperial structure says that some lives are more valuable than others, you exist only within a strata. The Messiah declares that all lives are sacred and all people are beloved children of the Creator, especially those on the margins and those the world sees as less than…preaching love of neighbor instead of outlawing someone’s personhood…a message of love, by the way, which became so threatening to the empire that they put Jesus to death rather than abide such an expansive and inclusive love.
The empire asserts power through might and submission. The Messiah reigns in humility and peace and love, taking the lower place, obedient even unto death.
The kingdom of God sits diametrically opposed to the way the world works and the so-called powerful and mighty. To the world, the kingdom of God is foolishness. It’s backward. It is weak.
And yet, time and again, we are told and shown that God uses what is weak in the world to shame the proud and strong. God uses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God takes what is lowly and despised by the world, and raises it up to new life.
Following this Messiah is foolish. but these people who found themselves as part of Jesus’ parade are also incredibly faithful…shouting out “Hosanna!”—”Save us!”—to the one who actually could.
Following this Jesus is not a smart move, dear children. It will not make you friends with the empire and the powers of the world. By every standard of the world, this Messiah is a failure. Arrested…beaten…tortured…crucified…and died. Foolish. Messiahs don’t die.
The power of Christ comes through humility. Not exploiting power, but giving it up. By emptying oneself. By pouring yourself out for the sake of others. Totally backwards from how the world works.
But through death, this Messiah brings life.
Friends, we know how this story ends. We know what’s coming next Sunday. We do not live as people who pretend as if we don’t know. We are resurrection people, after all.
And yet, this story is important.
It’s the greatest story ever told. And every part of it is important. I urge you…I implore you…do not skip to Sunday. Enter into this Holy Week. Make time for it.
This story has everything: High drama, friendship, betrayal, violence, and denial. Immeasurable and overflowing love, bargaining, and sacrifice. False accusations, contrived charges, and a sham trial. Intrigue and conversion. Suffering. And death.
And a plot twist that even Hollywood couldn’t come up with.
…But you already knew that…
Still…do not miss this story.
Look, I get it, it’s foolish to set aside time during your week to hear a story you’ve heard countless times throughout your life. You already know the ending, why does the story matter? Church, part of the story is the experience itself. It requires your participation. Your presence becomes part of the story.
Be foolishly faithful with me.
Attend to these mysteries.
Be present. Participate. Enter into the story.
A story of foolishness. A story of faithfulness.
The most wonderful story ever told.
The story of your salvation.
Welcome to Holy Week, church.