April 10, 2022 Palm Sunday
SCRIPTURE: Luke 17:37-40 and Luke 23:26-49
It’s a kind of crazy morning – so much like our Spring weather! One Sunday we are announcing Spring and a couple of Saturdays later, we had snow!
One day those first century followers of Jesus were high as a kite! The world looked like it’s supposed to look and seldom is. IT’S BRIGHT! Things are turning out just like they should. We are finally on the side of the conquerors. Our leader is splendid and look at the crowd! Even the children. They know a winner when they see one!
And five days later – just look at what has happened! Here we are again, but where are the children and the smiles, and the triumphant shouts? Our leader – our hero – the one we thought was God’s chosen one. That one is dying right before our eyes!
And what are we doing in Troy, Ohio on April the 10th, remembering both of these things on the very same day?? What is the matter with us? Who wants to rejoice and see it silenced on the same day? Poor planning if you ask me! Precisely the same planning as the divine plan 2000 years ago.
So what is the common denominator in both of these scenes? Well, of course, there is Jesus. The same in both. Yet the center of praise on the first day and the focus of death and violence and hatred just brief days later.
Yes, but there is another common denominator. WE ARE the other common denominator! Yes, us! The crowd! Many were the same that first time around and we are the same today! Watching both for our own reasons and with our own opinions, feelings and beliefs. We are one of the crowd!
It’s easy to see why we would have come out for the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem! Who doesn’t want to back a winner and Jesus looks for all the world like a winner! Well, his mount doesn’t quite fit the scene, but look at the crowd! Listen to the children shouting! They are even throwing their garments down in front of him like a royal red carpet.
It’s been so long since we’ve had a winner around here. The skies have been gray forever and our lives have been only one misery after another. Come on! Join us! Things are finally turning around and our ship has come in.
Didn’t you pray for this day to come? Remember how often we’ve longed for a Messiah a Deliverer! And not just us – our parents and their parents too! We can’t remember a time when we’ve been free and not under the iron thumb of some tyrant or another! Now it is Rome and Caesar. And look, God has heard our prayers! The King of the Jews! Just look at him. I wish he’d smile more! There’s a tear in his eye! Surely it must be a tear of joy!
But it wasn’t a tear of joy, was it? Jesus knew something on that day, I believe. He knew that the successful conclusion of his ministry and calling would never be on a throne somewhere.
And sure enough, less than a week later, he was enthroned on a cross, with nails through his hands and feet, surrounded by the same crowd, but today they were not there to praise him.
There were the critics like the man who was crucified there with Jesus: “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” There were his own followers, hidden in the shadows for fear of being identified. There were the curious who attended every crucifixion as if it were a concert on the square. And there at the foot of the cross were the few who deeply loved even if they could not understand. There was his mother, Mary Magdalene, and John. Brokenhearted, inconsolable, all their hopes in shatters.
Truly there was darkness from noon till three in the afternoon. It was a darkness that penetrated the soul and seemed to settle in permanently.
And we have been there in that crowd too! Why have you come? I suspect, like that first crowd 2000 years ago, you came because you saw something in that man hanging there that gave you hope. Something that promised freedom. Something that looked at the time like the promise of success.
And as high as your hopes were on Palm Sunday, that’s just how low they are around the cross.
I have only one word for you today and it is this: Neither of your emotions on Palm Sunday nor the emotions around the cross are the last word! You must not stop at either place for neither the happiness of Palm Sunday nor the despair of the Cross are
My word to you is the same as a sermon I once heard by Tony Campolo: IT’S FRIDAY, BUT SUNDAY’S COMIN!
We are not promised a detour around the cross. But even when it looks like it is over, it is never over until Sunday morning on the first day of the week! Come back next week on Easter morning!