Lenten Devotional: Palm Sunday

Posted by Kelly.Staples on March 20, 2016

Lenten Devotionals 2016

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and 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!"

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."

– Matthew 21:6-11

Even a novice to the liturgical calendar is familiar with Palm Sunday. It's the start of Holy Week. You're given props that match the name, there are processions, and it's different and sacred. I think most people really like Palm Sunday because it's one of the few times throughout the year that we really get to enact the faith. But sometimes in the pomp and excitement, we can forget what's going on. In seminary I had a professor tell me, "If you don't start going down by the middle of your Palm Sunday Service, you're doing it wrong."

This is so true. Palm Sunday is when it all starts to go bad. It's like a movie where neither the characters in a scene nor the viewers in the theater know something's about to go wrong, but the music gets a little ominous, and the lighting changes, and the second time you watch it, you wonder how you missed all the clues in the first place.

On Palm Sunday the crowd cheers for Jesus as he enters the city. They wave palms and throw down their cloaks so that even the animal he rides doesn't besmirch its hooves with the dust of the ground. They cry out to Jesus like a king. They say he comes from God. They celebrate him.

Five days later the crowds will cheer as he's crowned with thorns to pierce his brow. They will watch him beaten and stripped. They will taunt and jeer him. They will say he is deranged and call for his execution.

Traditionally we talk about these occurrences like they were the same crowds. Maybe they were, maybe they weren't. But you know there is no protest riot when Jesus is nailed to the cross. There is no marching in the streets to demand his release from Pilate. They don't stand at the cross, wailing and shouting out encouragement. In fact the Bible mentions that the women stay at the foot of the cross because it's out of the ordinary. Even his disciples run and hide. He was truly betrayed.

That's the story that we begin TODAY. The story of a people who cheered and celebrated and then threw him away when Jesus didn't meet their exact specifications of what a messiah looked and acted like. We cannot experience today, and the rest of this week, as mere observers. We can't be viewers behind the television screen. Our job is to be the crowd, to let down our Christ with our fickle loyalties.

This way when we hear that we are forgiven, that we are saved by this man we abandoned, we know that Christ's grace is true, life changing, and powerful. If Jesus can forgive those who cheered, CHEERED, as he was led to his death, we can begin to understand the depth of love and grace that surround us.

All glory, laud and honor to you our king and redeemer,
Now we enter into the contemplation of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and meditate on the salvation of the world through his sufferings, death, burial, and resurrection. Be with us God as we walk this difficult road. Break our hearts so that we know you are there to make us whole, always and forever. Amen.

Rev. Kelly Staples, Associate Pastor, NorthPark Presbyterian Church


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