Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The people greeted him with joy, shouting Hosanna and laying palm branches and their cloaks on the ground in front of Jesus. The word Hosanna is used in Judaism as not only a plea for help (Save us) but also includes the idea of praise to the God that saves. Jesus was greeted as the king who had been sent to save God’s people. Just as today, people can have very different ideas of what being saved means and about what they need to be saved from. The people of Jerusalem were looking for a great military leader to lead a revolt against the Romans. That was not what Jesus was about. Their disappointment sparked rage. It is this discrepancy in understanding Christ’s purpose that created the background for the tragic events that were to unfold.
On the Thursday of that week, Jesus gathered with his friends to celebrate the Passover Feast, which marks God’s saving hand in leading His people from slavery in Egypt. It was at this supper that Jesus gave the disciples directions to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Eucharist (this was not, however, the first Eucharist since Christ was still with them). It was from this supper that Judas left to betray Christ. Jesus then went with his friends to the garden at Gethsemane to pray in preparation for what was to come. It was in this garden that the soldiers arrested him.
On this solemn day we remember Christ’s brutal death on the cross, a death he freely accepted. As Christians we need to be aware that we are called to be a people of the cross. We have to die to the things that keep us from God and each other. We need constantly to be beating back ego and self centeredness, of pride and that desire for the limelight. We die to all that, so that we can be compassionate & gentle & kind and open toward all others. Jesus gave everything he had to help us understand what it means to be fully human, to be the person that God created us to be. Jesus came to help us understand what it is to be truly free, free of all the things that diminish us. We need to embrace the cross as surely as we embrace the joy of resurrection.
Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. We do not focus on the empty tomb. This is not a resuscitated Christ but a resurrected Christ, raised to a new life that is beyond comparison to this life. Our focus isn’t just on Jesus’ being changed, but that the new life of God’s reign begins now, and that we too are changed. The faithful are transformed: broken lives are healed, fear gives way to hope. Christ rising from the dead was much more than a final proof that Jesus was, in fact, the Son of God. The wonderful and perplexing truth is that Jesus is alive, not only was alive, but is alive. Jesus’ story never ends. Christ has been victorious.