Palm Sunday

The biblical passage: J 12, 12-19

The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt!” His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus our of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. The Pharesees then said to one another, “You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.”

The above biblical passage conjours up a fairly colourful picture. What is important, all the four evangelists described the same event, agreeing that Jesus, following the prophecy of the prophet Isaac, enters Jerusalem as the King of Peace. Jesus rides in sitting on a ass’s colt, to remind everybody who He is and why He has come. People, who could witness His entrance in person, passed to one another the message that Messiah had just arrived in Jerusalem. At last the whole crowd was overcome with a frenzy of joy. From all directions one could hear merry cries: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Even those who had come simply out of curiosity, were overwhelmed by common enthusiasm. We can guess that the disciples of Jesus were very much moved and joyful, being at least for a while able to forget about the hostile mood displayed earlier to Jesus.

Cheering crowds are happy to see Jesus arrive, for on Him they have pinned their hopes and expectations. If almost everybody shared in this hope, it might mean that there were no doubts about Jesus being the prophesied Messiah, the true King of Israel, the Savior. This “great crowd” knew who had brought back to life their relatives, cured the blind and paralyzed, fed the hungry. Now the Messiah rides into Jerusalem – the town of hope and good future. Therefore His hour is come, the victory is close, Israel may once again feel one people as of old, in the times of King David!
However, from our point of view, one might ask the following question: Does not Israel fall prey to illusion or fantasy? Jesus, as we can see, does not arrive in the town as a powerful ruler accompanied by numerous bodyguards; He comes on His own, riding an ass’s colt. That is to say – to borrow the expression of the Reverend dr Martin Luther – Jesus arrives in Jerusalem as “the king of the poor.” Unfortunately, people do not want to see that. It seems as if they are determined to make out of Jesus a national hero. Today we know that such ambitions were totally alien to His mission. As Messiah he continues the tradition of countless prophets, who found no respect or recognition among their contemporary. On the contrary, they were often persecuted. The prophet Isaac in great detail announced what was to happen to Jesus in the Holy City, which is what we take care to remember during Holy Week.

Today we know that people living in Jerusalem who cheered Jesus and saw in Him the future King of Israel, would be disappointed with the fact that Jesus announced a kingdom of another world. Jesus Christ brought to Jerusalem a precious gift for the whole Israel. This gift consisted in the truth that man needs to remain in communion with God. The people who cheered did not want to hear about it because the gift was not deemed valuable, it did not strike people as attractive. Thus, fulfilling the will of God the Father, Jesus was forced to bear the cross of Golgotha. It seems that the Israelites expected something other than salvation, something other than reconciliation with God; what they expected was national independence, national freedom. As if the fulfillment of that dream could repair all human griefs. As if the realization of that wish would spell the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. The Israelites living in the times of Jesus Christ, one might say, were not ready for the gift Jesus offered them. One can encounter today the belief that should Jesus come to Israel today, things might take a different course… But the Savior came into the world when it pleased God the Father and He brought people His gift of salvation.

The arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, which we remember today, is part of the way that leads Him to His ordeal. It is there, with Him, that the gift He strove to bring us: community with God, peace with the Creator – redemption – can be found.

The cross of Christ has become the sign that God comes to man, to us, always in a way different to whatever man could foresee, or wish. God is greater and quite unlike our predictions and plans. The cross brings with itself the truth that God reveals Himself to us by means of apparent defeat and weakness more often than by means of spectacular victories. For this reason Christianity gathering around the Cross of Christ adopts the attitude of wise humility and forgiveness: drawing its strength straight from Good Friday. This is Christianity staying far from shallow emotions and cheers, much closer to the pulse of reality. Let us remember that in the eyes of God we are worth as much as Christ who sacrificed Himself for our sake. All this in order that we should not despair, that we might eventually participate in salvation. Amen.

Rev. Dr Dariusz Chwastek, translated by Dr Joanna Teske

Lublin, 5. 04. 2009