It is a strange day for us, followers of Jesus.
We start out with palms and praises – welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem, welcoming him into our lives and our hearts. Who doesn’t love a parade, after all. Palms and cheers, responding to God’s promised messiah.
Joy and enthusiasm are appropriate. Celebration with all our hearts. If we didn’t praise and welcome Jesus, if we were silent, Jesus reminds us that even the stones would shout out. The whole creation praises God’s presence with us in Jesus.
But then – the change, the fickle crowds perhaps, or the perversion of sin and the corruptions of our hearts. The cries of Hosanna turn to the sounds of Crucify him, crucify him! And the way of the Cross begins: step by step, we follow Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane, the judgment hall, Calvary and the Cross, and finally to Jesus’ death.
Today is strangely filled with uncomfortable tensions. Palms and praise and joy, and then condemnation and finally death. We call this Sunday Passion Sunday – the day we remember the passion of Jesus. An odd, old-fashioned word to use perhaps, referring to Jesus suffering and death, but it is appropriate. The passion of Jesus refers not just to his suffering but to his love for God and for us, love so passionate that it would lead to the Cross.
Without Jesus’ passionate love of God, without his passionate willingness to give his life in faithful obedience to God, without his passionate vision of God’s kingdom, without Jesus’ passionate love for US – without this, so clearly demonstrated as Jesus goes to death on the cross, we would have no reason to call hosanna. We welcome Jesus into our hearts and lives because we know what he does for us.
There have been many interpretations, theologies, philosophies, sermons, attempting to explain the meaning of these events. Jesus dying for us, substituted on the cross, punishment for us. Redemptive suffering and death. All sorts of things that may or may not make sense to our limited brains.
But all these, and all other attempts to explain what happens this week fall short. It is God’s love, God’s passionate love, simply that, beyond our understanding but not beyond our faith and our hearts, abundant saving love and grace -- this week is about that.
Remember the words of Jesus from the cross: To those who crucified him: Father forgive them. To the thief on the cross: Today you will be with me in paradise.
This is what it is all about: forgiveness, love.
Waving palms, shouting crucify him – it is all the same because God loves us, God is with us, in all things, at all times, no matter what we do. That is the great miracle of holy week – the palms and the cross lead us to God’s love and to the greater miracle we celebrate next week. God does not only love us and forgive us – God gives us life. In spite of sin, in spite of death – God gives us life.
So today, wave you palms, shed tears of repentance as we should “Crucify.” And most of all rejoice in Jesus’ passion. Jesus is passionate for us – God is passionate in his love. And that is something for us to celebrate. That is love that makes even the stones shout aloud.