Saturday 23 March 2013

Lent 6 Palm Sunday-Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, Luke 19v28-40

One name for today is Passion Sunday and I can easily identify with that description. Maybe it's the energy that the word implies, maybe it's the connection with complete devotion and love, maybe it's the drivenness. Jesus was certainly driven. He was passionate about his calling  Jesus was driven to fulfil his calling despite death threats, and torture and finally being killed. Jesus' entry into Jerusalem introduces the final days of his ministry prior to his arrest and crucifixion, In tradition, certainly from the 4th century, Jesus spent a week in Jerusalem (Palm Sunday to Easter). It is quite possible that Jesus spent weeks, even months, in Jerusalem. Maybe Jesus came to Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles and was arrested and crucified at the feast of Passover.

Jesus has told his disciples to leave the road and go to Bethany on the side road where they will find the colt. In accord with the arrangements, Jesus underlines his intention to return the animal to its owner when its task is completed.The animal is tethered out in the street, rather than in a stable or yard, ready to be picked up as arranged. Some question the disciples actions. Presumably the owner is not at home, and given Jesus' instructions, he probably knew that the owner would not be at home. This is why the owner has tethered the animal out the front. They threw their cloaks] over it in place of a saddle and they spread out, strew branches - bits of straw, rushes, possibly olive branches. Jesus was surrounded by people crying "Hosanna" - save us we pray, save us now, the pilgrims' blessing of Psalm 118:25-26, Jesus is acclaimed by the people as the coming messiah-Hosanna in the highest.  He was driven to fulfill his calling despite death threats and torture and finally being killed.

The context of the ride into Jerusalem we remember from John’s gospel, is the healing and raising from the dead of Lazarus. Why else would the people suddenly recognize who Jesus was...Why else would they process and chant in such a manner? Mary the sister of Lazarus recognised this when she took the perfume and poured it over Jesus "for the day of his burial"(John 12v7). The plot has thickened, the chief priests are planning to kill Jesus and Lazarus because of this raising from the dead.

And so you get this commotion, this riot, this revolution.

It is very surprising that when the secret is out, Jesus fully acknowledges who he is and enjoyed for a moment the adulation and the full meaning of him riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. For a moment the mood was different. And the disciples did not understand what was going on until they looked back on events.

And so we have before us a story of love and hate. A story of duplicity.

Jesus has stirred up such feelings in people that some love him worship him and some are threatened by him, because he is too powerful for them too good, too popular. But hang on a moment don’t we have these thoughts too. Aren’t there people we hate, envy because they show us up and they’re more popular than us? Do  we sometimes hurt them, consciously or unconsciously? Maybe they’re people in our own families amongst our friends who we feel in two minds about, or even in one nasty mind.

Time and time again the gospels tell us that Jesus knew the people and the implication is that he knew they were not sincere. It is the knowledge of a mature person. And how right he was

I have no doubt that the Church desperately needs an injection of those who are crazy enough to commit themselves to follow Christ with every ounze of their being, with passion like these pilgrims on the first Palm Sunday. It will not come from cajoling. It will not come from sermons. It will come when something touches your life. It will come in prayer, in silence, through hearing the gospels and through seeing love in action.

You can commit yourself to many other things but if you commit yourself to following Christ, you are committing yourself supremely to a life of love, love worked out in the grime and grit of your families and relationships, love worked out in the tensions and stresses at work, love for yourself and others, a love which is attractive, energizing and wholesome, empowering and like that of Jesus.

So reflect today on saying yes to that nagging and yearning, and to follow Christ up and down the length of your days despite doubts and serious failures. Commit yourself to doing that which you can not stop yourself wanting to do and do it with a passion, with all of your being. And let Love always be the locus, measure and source of all that absorbs you.



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