I know that the children love Palm Sunday.They get to process into the sanctuary waving palm fronds. After five Sundays of Lenten services that can become rather dark and gloomy, everybody is probably ready to dance and sing songs of triumphant joy. But, as a preacher, I’ve found Palm Sunday to be problematic (of course I could use the Passion Sunday focus, but doesn’t that displace Good Friday?). Palm Sunday seems like it’s a misreading of the situation. The crowd seems to think that their Messiah has arrived – and if, as some scholars speculate, Pilate and his troops could have been entering the city through another gate – you can see how there might be some who were hoping Jesus would meet force with divinely inspired force. Hail to the one who comes to liberate the people!
But of course the story doesn’t go according to “plan.” The triumphal entry is a momentary blip of excitement (Matthew 21:1-11). Jesus doesn’t raise an army, but instead after a few more days of teaching and rabble rousing (remember that in Matthew’s telling of the story Jesus immediately goes to the Temple and runs out the merchants and bankers) he faces trial and execution. The one hailed as Son of David takes his place among the enemies of the state who are being executed by the powers and principalities – both religious and secular. So, is our victory parade little more than a vain interruption of Jesus’ journey to the cross?
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