Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday Meditation

Today, “Palm Sunday,” is the beginning of Holy Week in Christian tradition. It is the commencement a sudden total reversal of public reaction to Jesus under the nudging and urging of Jewish religious and political leaders. On Palm Sunday Jesus entered Jerusalem to loud public acclaim, including the laudatory waving of palm branches from which the holiday derives its name:

After He had said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. "If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say, 'The Lord has need of it.'" So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They said, "The Lord has need of it." They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting : "BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD ; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest !" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." But Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!" (Luke 19:28-40, NASB)

It was, for Jesus, much less joyful. He knew where He was headed, what would soon happen to Him and what would happen in just 4 decades to Jerusalem. The coming week was the culmination of His purpose in life. But the sadness He expressed was not focused on Himself:

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. "For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:41-44, NASB)

Thus, Jesus knew and foretold what would happen some 40 years later, the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple and its populace. The description of this event, written by the eyewitness Josephus, is painful reading.

So Palm Sunday is a grace note of triumph leading into a symphony of pain. Yet, from another perspective, that grace note led off a triumphal concert lasting into eternity.

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