Palm Sunday: Triumph and Loss

Throughout Lent, we have traveled with 4th century mystic Evagrius Ponticus, interrogating demons to prepare for an encounter with God in death and new life.  This season culminates in Holy Week, the annual remembrance of Jesus’ passion and death.  It begins on a bittersweet, perhaps ironic note in Palm Sunday.

Jesus has traveled to Jerusalem, which is presumably the site of his victory.  This is the home of the One Who Begat him, the house where he went as a youth.  It is the throne of his ancestor David, the seat of power for his people.  And so he enters like a king.  Sort of.  Instead of a horse, he rides a donkey.  Instead of a legion of soldiers, he has a small band of homeless people.  He is welcomed by the poor, not the powerful, with the spreading of coats and branches on his path.  It’s a carnival.  It’s a parallel universe to Pontius Pilate’s entry, designed to intimidate, on the other side of town.  Everyone in town is probably at one gate or the other.

This is the central conflict within which Holy Week’s events unfold.  We move from the celebratory satire of the Triumphal Entry, to the devastating disappointment and loss of the Passion.  Jesus is dangerous, so Jesus must die.

As any human would, Jesus experiences the gamut of emotions.  I imagine they are all mixed up, as emotions tend to be.  The adulation and adoration of the poor, the very people he has served during his ministry.  The hope in their eyes as they cheer him on.  Is this the year that Passover finally means liberation once again?  But he knows – how could he not? – that this stunt will set in motion a chain of events from which there is no return.  In the midst of the celebration, he knows the pain he faces.  He knows he will be betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and finally forsaken by the One.  This is the week we enter the tomb with Jesus.

Join us Sunday at 11am at the Kessler as we remember the triumph and the loss in word and song.

Grace & Peace,

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