Palm Sunday (2018)

When the Lord entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, it was the only time when there was public acclamation of Him as Messiah and King.  In our joining the celebration, we declare Jesus to be our Lord, which has great implications for our daily life.

The significance of this ascription of lordship to the risen Christ is also fairly clear, though it can be exaggerated. At the very least, kyrios denoted an asserted or acknowledged dominance and right of disposal of superior over inferior – whether simply master over slave, king over subject, or, by extension, god over worshiper. To confess someone as one’s “lord” expressed an attitude of subserviencey and a sense of belonging or devotion to the one so named. And if the confession was used in baptism (as seems likely in Rom. 10.9), it would also indicated a transfer of allegiance and change in acknowledged ownership. At the very least, then, the confession of Jesus as Lord betokened a life now committed to his service.   (James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul, p. 247)

“The followers of Jesus of Nazareth founded an early Jewish movement centered on a charismatic figure who offered hope for an ideal future in which the power of the God of Israel would be dramatically manifested and universally recognized. The movement they began was not however, the only one of its kind. Other such movements, dating back from the first century BCE to the second century CE, promised a sudden end of the present age, which they regarded as evil and corrupt, and the inauguration of a new age in which God’s people would see the wicked punished and the world ruled in righteousness.

Notably, this king accomplishes his goals not by military might; his weapon is ‘the word of his mouth,’ based on Isaiah 11.4.

One major function of the Messiah is to bring about God’s justice by defeating all agents of oppression, human and superhuman (Pss. Sol. 17.34, Ezra 13.38). However, the focus of the texts is less on the messianic figure than on the messianic age, the time when God’s justice rather than Satan or Empire, would prevail.”  (The Jewish Annotated New Testament, 530, 531)

We are in Holy Week – the week in which God reveals His true nature to us.   God is Holy and it turns out that holiness also means humble and self-sacrificing.

Palm Sunday (2017)

The Epistle reading for Palm Sunday (Philippians 4:4-9) is not directly related to the events we commemorate on this day. It does however remind us to rejoice in the Lord, which is what the disciples did on this day 2000 years ago.  And despite the events we consider during Holy Week – Christ’s arrest, torture, crucifixion and death – the Epistle tells us to think about things that are good and beautiful.  The horrendous events of Christ’s death hide the salvation that is being won for us.   St. Mark the Ascetic reminds us of the importance of this New Testament passage:

“Take up the weapons of righteousness that are directly opposed to them: mindfulness of God, for this is the cause of all blessings; the light of spiritual knowledge, through which the soul awakens from its slumber and drives out of itself the darkness of ignorance; and true ardour, which makes the soul eager for salvation.

So, through the power of the Holy Spirit, with all prayer and entreaty, you will contend bravely against the three giants of the demonic Philistines. Through mindfulness of God, you will always reflect on ‘whatever is true, whatever is modest, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, whatever is holy and deserving of praise’ (Phil. 4:8); and in this way you will banish from yourself the pernicious evil of forgetfulness. Through the light of spiritual knowledge you will expel the destructive darkness of ignorance; and through your true ardour for all that is good you will drive out the godless laziness that enables evil to root itself in the soul. When by deep attentiveness and prayer you have acquired these virtues, not only through your own personal choice but also through the power of God and with the help of the Holy Spirit, you will be able to deliver yourself from the three powerful giants of the devil. For when real knowledge, mindfulness of God’s word and true ardour are firmly established in the soul through active grace and are carefully guarded, the combination of these three expels from the soul and obliterates every trace of forgetfulness, ignorance, and laziness and henceforth grace reigns within it, though Christ Jesus our Lord. May He be glorified through all the ages. Amen.” (The Philokalia: Vol. One, pp. 159-160)

If we rejoice in the Lord always, we never forget God. The sojourn through Holy Week calls us to remember the events of the last week of Christ’s earthly life. It reminds us to be with Christ, even in His suffering. It reminds us to rejoice always, even in moments of our own suffering or doubt. Holy Week is walking with Christ in His life, as well as having Him walk with us in ours.  Where is your heart and mind this week when your fellow Christians gathered to contemplate the sufferings of Christ?  We remember every year the events of Christ’s last week on earth because despite His suffering, Christ is obtaining for us eternal life.  We miss the beauty and truth if we stop reading the story too early or stop thinking about it.  When we know the full story then we know God’s plan for our salvation.

“… looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”  (Hebrews 12:2-3)

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”   (Philippians 2:5-11)

Palm Sunday 2016

It was the miracle of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead which caused Jerusalem to welcome Christ on the next day, Palm Sunday as one who comes in the Name of the Lord.  An excitement was building among some people that the signs were there – perhaps Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is Lord.

“The people therefore that was with Him when He called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. For this cause the people also met Him, for that they had heard that He had done this miracle.

Who brings joy to a house? A welcome guest.

Who brings even greater joy to a house? The householder, returning after a long absence.

Happy the hands that received the Lord Jesus as a welcome Guest!

Happy the lips that greeted Him as a Friend!

Happy the souls who made their reverence to Him as the Householder with a song of welcome!”

(Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, Homilies, pp 185-186)

Previous:  Lazarus Saturday 2016

Next:  Holy Monday 2016

Palm Sunday (2015)

“We are so used to the idea that Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, that we forget that he was in fact recognized as King, even if only on one day and for a few hours. And although his kingship is hidden from the world now, we still acknowledge him as our King.

We made this confession in baptism: that everything in our life and in the world belongs to him; that there is nothing over which he is not, for us, the true ruler; that we subject every area of our lives to him, to save and redeem. Taking up the palms and making this proclamation is a renewal of our baptismal pledge: that Christ and his Kingdom is our only reality. . . .

This is what happened to all those who today greet Christ with palms and the Hosanna. When they realize that his sight is not set on their goals, it only takes a few days before they begin to clamor for his death.

We know that this is the tendency or the momentum of the world, the world which lives in us, too; and we know that the death of Christ is not only the result of our sin and insanity, but it is, more importantly, God’s answer to that insanity—that this is what divine love looks like.

We know this already; we knew it when we were baptized—we were, after all, baptized into the death of Christ, in order to rise with him. Knowing this, we must make sure, as we once again follow Christ to Golgotha, the Passion, to his crucifixion and exaltation, that it is this Jesus that determines for us what is good, true, beautiful, and gracious. We need, as it were, to allow our notion of what is good to be crucified with him, to take a new shape in what he reveals to us about truth and love.” (John Behr, THE CROSS STANDS WHILE THE WORLD TURNS, pp 54-55)

It is the God incarnate who dies on the cross who determines what is good and true and beautiful.   The world showed its hatred for Him. It still does. ISIS hates Christ and still wishes to crucify the God who is love. It is however, the God who voluntarily submits Himself to crucifixion whom we follow to death, not only in baptism, but whenever it comes to our own will. In Holy Week we reaffirm our faithfulness to this Christ, the one who dies on the cross for the salvation of the world rather than summoning armies of angels from heaven to save Himself from the evil of the world.