Well, here we are. Palm Sunday brings us to Holy Week which brings us to Easter.
From our perspective, we know what's going to happen. We know that the same people who welcome Jesus with waving branches and honour him by throwing their coats to the ground in front of him, as they would welcome a king, are likely the same people who turn away from him later the same week. We know that the leaders of the Sanhedrin are watching. We know what they were planning. We know the Romans are watching, too.
But we stand in celebration, still, perhaps waving our own palm branches or something like it, recognizing that Jesus planned this moment of celebration. He sent disciples to bring him a donkey to ride, a sign of peace (warriors rode horses), so that he could arrive as the prophet Zechariah had foretold the Messiah would. And the people celebrated his arrival, just in time for the feast of Passover, as they kept a wary eye on Pilate and his soldiers arriving to keep an eye on things during the festival.
Yes, Pilate was arriving in Jerusalem at the same time. He was on a horse. Nothing like a big event to inspire acts of patriotic rebellion, especially one that reminded the people of the exodus from Egypt. I wonder if he noticed this extra bit of celebration.
So, in that moment, we celebrate what the people celebrated then: the arrival of the promised messiah.
But we know what has to happen. We know that this is not a moment of triumph, not yet. We knows he is walking to his execution. We know that, the very next day, he gets angry at the money changers and sellers in front of the temple and makes a scene. We know he teaches and foretells the temples destruction and the end times. We know he shares the Passover meal with his closest friends. We know he’s afraid, we know he doubts and prays that there might be another way. We know he’s betrayed and arrested. We know his mocked and judged and beaten and killed. We know his lifeless body’s placed in a tomb. We know that’s not where he stays.
Over time, Christians became a Sunday people, something we're now discovering may no longer be meaningful to people, looking to find God in their lives, but also looking for more time to fill their lives with meaningful things. But it's not just our focus on the time at which we gather, it's become part of how we tell the story. Jesus wasn’t a one day a week wonder. Jesus lives every day.
This moment of celebration on Palm Sunday is followed by a greater moment of celebration the following Sunday, yes, it is. But there's a whole week of days in between, important pieces of the story. It’s a story we know is there, but how often do we still walk it with Jesus?
Here is our opportunity to embrace Jesus and hold him close, close with experiences we might share in our own lives, moments of happiness, anger, fear, pain, shame and grief. It’s not a comfortable journey, no. It takes us to death and emptiness. But it doesn't end there. That's why we need to take the journey with Jesus: it’s the story of life and death. And life. That’s a story for next week.