Reflection for Palm Sunday
We began our worship welcoming Jesus with hosannas; the very embodiment of our hopes. We will end with his lonely, horrific death, a criminal executed by the state.
In years past we may have wondered how things could have turned so quickly, from hero to pariah in a week. By now, most of us likely have no problem imagining how life’s changes could come so swiftly; how quickly we could become isolated and cut-off.
It is a reminder that Jesus’ story isn’t some epic legend from long ago, some tale from dramatic bard, or a kind of tall tale legend. Jesus’ story is our story. Jesus lived among us so that we might better understand our own lives. His is the model or standard upon which ours is to be measured and understood. Jesus fully lived into the person he was created to be, and his life offers us the invitation and encouragement to do the same because we see that though the powers of the world turned on him and fickle followers abandoned him; God’s love remained and brought Jesus to a more magnificent existence than we could have imagined. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are an example for us but also a promise to us that we too can participate in Christ’s redeemed life.
Jesus’ life is also a reminder, a sign if you will, that this life, here and now is important and meaningful. God blessed our sometimes messy human lives through being born as we are; and living a fully human life. Human life, God says through Jesus, is precious. Humanity is imperfect, and sometimes ugly, but it is worth the cost to save it, to reform it, to redeem it.
The story of Jesus’ last week, bookended in our worship today, is also a stark reminder to us of what it means to follow Jesus. The story of Jesus in his last hours is also the story of how the 12 deny him in the midst of their own fears; of how one of them betrayed him for motives unclear to us, but probably also rooted in fear. Because it is fear that drives forward all the darkness and evil in the world. Fear is evil’s darkest gift to humanity.
But we also see courageous faithfulness in the story. It is the story also of the faithful women who followed Jesus, who bore witness to his agony as the disciples hid away and we hear of Joseph of Arimethea, who boldly proclaimed himself a follower, fully aware of the potential consequences, by asking for Jesus’ body to bury it respectfully. It is the story of a criminal, judged and executed alongside Jesus who calls him Lord.
It is easy to be an admirer of Jesus, especially so when things are going well. Jesus has much about him that would be admirable in anyone. He is kind, honest, loving, unafraid of his emotions, faithful, earnest but with a sense of humor, and he has a vision of how life could be that fills us with hope.
But like fair weather fans, the admirers of Jesus tend to fade away when it comes time to pick up their own crosses and follow Him. Jesus asks us, and shows us how, to do difficult things – to live out his call to love our neighbors. To not respond to difficulty with selfishness, self-centeredness, or greed. Yes it’s good to sing Hosannas in the sunshine and admire the man riding into town surrounded by the enthusiasm of the crowd.
Harder though is to be his follower when confronted in the courtyard of the high priest’s house; when following Jesus takes us someplace uncomfortable or dangerous. And yet, those are always the places and where Jesus is going.
The kingdom will not be built by the admirers of Jesus; that is the work of His followers. That is the work that you have been called to. Do not be afraid, for God is with you, will give you what you need for your role, and will never leave you.
Thanks be to God