(When is the last Palm Sunday I didn't to to church? I have no idea. So here's a Palm Sunday sermon from a few years ago.)
PALM SUNDAY 2017
We make it to be much more of a spectacle than it most likely was.
For us, nearly 2000 years later, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a time of triumph and celebration. Yet, at the time, it was a parade most likely hardly noticed.
It certainly wasn’t like the kind of parades we know—nothing like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or local 4th of July parades, or the parades last month for St. Patrick. It was most likely a tiny band of marchers—made up of those disciples who had been following him for months or years and the people who lived outside the city walls who had heard of this strange, charismatic teacher from Galilee.
Most of the people weren’t expecting him and most of the populace of Jerusalem never saw the procession of palms and cloaks and the country rabbi on a colt or a donkey—we’re not even sure which. No dignitaries came to greet him—none of the Pharisees or Saducees or occupying Romans. In fact, the whole thing was probably over so quickly that even if people inside the city walls heard of the rag-tag parade, they wouldn’t have had time to rush to the Gate of the City he entered to see him.
We don’t even know which of the Gates of the walled city he entered. The Jerusalem that Jesus knew is buried under a half-dozen destructions and rebuildings now. Jerusalem’s gates in the 1st century are not the ones in today’s city walls.
Most likely, since he was coming from Bethany, he came up from the Kiddron Valley to whatever gate was on the south side of the city. But we don’t know.
All we know about the event is what we have in the gospel stories—and even they are not consistent.
So, why is Palm Sunday such an important day in our lives as Christians?
Maybe it is important, not because what happened as Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem—which direction he came from, which gate he entered, how many people greeted him as the Messiah with Palms and Alleluias. Maybe Palm Sunday is important because of what happened after he got there.
The rest of the week—even the rest of this service—is not so full of bravado and joy and excitement as the story of the procession. Things go sour right away—and five short days from now, seemingly all of Jerusalem is calling for Jesus’ death. Even his closest friends deny him and go into hiding.
It is not what happens “outside” the gate of the Holy City that we need to begin to consider, but what happens “inside” the city walls.
The Palm Sunday account actually leaves us still outside Jerusalem.
Perhaps the question we need to ask is not “will we welcome Jesus to the City?" Perhaps the question we need to ask is this: ‘WILL WE GO WITH HIM INTO JERUSALEM AND STAY WITH HIM OVER THE NEXT WEEK?’
For me, I guarantee you, the answer to that is not the answer I wish, in my weakness and fear and brokenness, that I could give. My answer falls far short of the one I long to give….
“YES, LORD,” I long to proclaim, “I’M WITH YOU TO THE END!”
And I know better. I too will betray and abandon and hide in fear. My answer falls far short.
But at least I’m asking the right question….