Welcome to Palm Sunday, a time of faith-filled joy. Today’s celebration begins with the significance of Jesus’ entrance through Jerusalem’s gate. Ultimately, what we celebrate is God’s entrance into our hearts and minds.
Jesus’ highly public donkey ride into Jerusalem encouraged his supporters, who recognized in him a man of promise and possibility. The crowds adoring Jesus might have known him as the populist prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. Perhaps these admirers even considered Jesus to be the Messiah who would set them free from Roman-occupation.
But all was not well. The Jewish and Roman leaders would notice of a fervent crowd and perceive it as a dire threat. From the perspective of the authorities, the Jerusalem populace might get out of control and this could lead to a riot, possibly sparking a revolt against the Roman occupiers (which eventually happened a few decades after Jesus’ death). The biblical text does not suggest that Jesus’ actions were deliberately intended to cause political instability. Yet, it’s all about perception. With the Romans watching, even a parade led by a peculiar man on a donkey caused serious ripples.
What if Jesus had leveraged his popularity to initiate insurrection against either the Jewish priestly oligarchy, the Romans, or both? Jesus didn’t accomplish such a scenario because he was emphasizing spiritual issues rather than political power. It’s not surprising then that Jesus chose to present himself as the spiritual King of the Jews. Earthly kingdoms come and go, but God’s eternal presence doesn’t depend on who holds the reigns of political privilege.
Some people who were part of that ancient cheering crowd likely felt betrayed later because Jesus didn’t instigate the anticipated revolutionary changes. Perhaps this explains why many abandoned Jesus during his trial and execution. Initially buoyed by high-hopes, those who shouted praises during Jesus’ triumphal entry would soon be appalled by his arrest and execution. It’s unfortunate that public opinion was so fickle and focused on worldly things. Once it was clear that Jesus would not fulfill nationalist aspirations, the fickle crowd abandoned him and moved on.
Fast-forward nearly two-thousand years and Jesus continues to make entrances into peoples’ hearts and minds. As in ancient times, peoples’ views about Jesus vary wildly. There are casual observers, true-believers, people who want to manipulate sentiment, and just about every shade of opinion in-between. Those who seek the Jesus of love and truth welcome the God who brings life renewal and wellbeing.
Then as now, seekers of love and truth embrace the divine presence Jesus, representing the Lord of light and life. Today, it’s not about a literal, triumphal entry through a city gate as much as it is a spiritual entry into the lives of those who seek God. Are you on this type of journey? Is God the guiding force in your life and are you enthusiastic about your spiritual life? The point is to get you to the place where you can follow God authentically, not out of habit, dread, coercion, or anything less than a transforming embrace of love and truth.
As you prepare for Easter, hunger and thirst for God’s Spirit. Allow yourself to be filled with meaning and hope. Don’t let Lent end in vain. Take the lessons and strength you’ve gained and continue the positive momentum. The tendency is for people to drop off and drop out after Easter. Don’t let that happen to you or those you love. Stay-tuned and remain energized as you share your faith. Join the hearty party of faith and don’t give-up. We need you to be that person whom God is renewing for a life of wellbeing. –Reverend Larry Hoxey