Palm Sunday is a celebration in which Christendom can joyfully participate.
It is a journey that indeed begins with a parade, a celebratory parade for Jesus; continues with a mock trial at the hands of religious insiders and Pontius Pilate, a blood-lusting mob calling for Jesus’ crucifixion, the voluntary physical death of a would-be Jewish savior; and concludes with resurrection, victory over physical death and the validation of Jesus as Messiah for potentially all humankind.
The original week began with celebration, continued down a treacherous path and then came full circle back to celebration – at least for true believers.
The whole of the Holy Week experience reminds us today of the need for a savior. The people that had seen Jesus during that week were fickle, too easily swayed by rhetoric from competing voices. They vacillated between treating Jesus as a king and a common criminal, between giving him free reign and sealing him up in a borrowed tomb, between hearing his sweet message and silencing his convicting voice.
The forces of religious Judaism and of brutal Roman occupation wound up squaring off together against the true hope of the world – Christ. The power of those forces was intensified in Jerusalem, to where religious pilgrims had flocked and to where additional Roman soldiers had been dispatched to control them.
Modern-day believers do not routinely have such a cataclysmic gathering for Holy Week but we sometimes are guilty of being fickle in our religious belief and expression – even though we know the whole story.
We still need the savior that emerged from the tomb in the first century and entered the hearts and minds of those who chose to accept him. We have the same opportunity today. If we are not careful, we take God’s provision for granted. We maintain something of an arm’s length relationship with the Lord who seeks spiritual intimacy with us.
This Holy Week is a perfect time to re-commit to give thanks for the eternal provision, re-declare our commitment to Christ and to repeat our desire – in concrete ways – to allow Christ to shine through us.
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.