Finding Faith: Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the highs and lows of Holy Week
"We will be taken from the highs of Jesus’ return to Jerusalem to the tragic depths of his arrest, trial and crucifixion to the indescribable joy of his return from the grave. The wide range of emotions this week will produce is mind boggling!"
This Sunday, April 2, Christian churches will celebrate Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, which will be miraculously capped with Jesus’ resurrection from the grave the following Sunday on Easter.
A lot will transpire in the week: We will be taken from the highs of Jesus’ return to Jerusalem to the tragic depths of his arrest, trial and crucifixion to the indescribable joy of his return from the grave. The wide range of emotions this week will produce is mind boggling!
But for now, on Palm Sunday, we celebrate Christ’s triumphant return to Jerusalem where he is welcomed by adoring crowds who will exclaim “Hosanna” as he rides into the city on a donkey.
Jesus and his disciples are returning for the Jewish festival of Passover, and he will be greeted like a king by those who believe him to be the messiah. As the story goes, the gathering crowds laid down their cloaks and the branches of palm trees on the road for him to ride over in a show of respect.
However, not quite the imperial scene one would expect to see on the arrival of a king!
But that is really the point, and why Palm Sunday is so beautiful. God’s son, the savior of the world, rides into town on a donkey and little other fanfare.
One can only imagine how festive the occasion was! The joy Jesus’ faithful must have felt!
Knowing what transpires over the course of the next week makes the story even that much more poignant. Jesus knew of the prophecy of his death, and yet he still returned to be with his people.
At its simplest, the story of Palm Sunday is a heartwarming scene describing how Jesus’ followers welcomed their adored king home for one of the highpoints of the Jewish calendar. There he was, their savior in all of his incarnate glory! … And choosing to enter on a donkey of all creatures!
Grab a palm frond and wave it high, just as the people did on Jesus’ return to Jerusalem! What a special Sunday morning in church!
But then Palm Sunday is only just the beginning of the story of Holy Week, isn’t it?
Over this week, Jesus will do his best to prepare his followers for what is to come. But how could his disciples — or even we still today — understand the despicable depths those in power would stoop to try to prevent Jesus from overturning sin and death in the world?
But do not lose faith! … Even human arrogance and greed cannot conquer the son of God! By the end of this week, we will be shouting: “He is not here, for he has been raised!” … Amen.