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Palm Sunday

D. G. Phillips

Holy Communion

AD 2008

Matthew 21:1-11     Philippians 2:5-11    Matthew 27:1-54


"Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus: who…humbled himself; and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross "


Today we begin the holiest week of the year.


And we begin this week with two gospels of triumph –


The first is the triumphal entry of Jesus into the earthly Jerusalem – humble, riding on a donkey, lauded by the crowds as their king – Hosannah to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.


The second is the triumphal entry of Jesus into the heavenly Jerusalem – humiliated, lifted up upon the Cross, mocked and spit upon by the crowds as an imposter - Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself: if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.  … He saved others; himself he cannot save: if he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.  He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.  The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.


The first triumphal entry we can easily understand – finally after three years of earthly ministry in Israel Jesus allows the people to laud him openly as their King.  After telling the disciples of his coming passion and death, Jesus chooses to enter into the holy city very publicly.  He tells them to bring him an ass tied.  It is the same beast that King David rode when he arrived in Jerusalem 1000 years before.  And it was to fulfill the prophecy Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.


This Jesus we find it easy to follow –

-    This Jesus gave us success in the spiritual life – a new liveliness in our youth, when we got insights, when we saw changes in us, a new self control, even an empowerment, spiritual gifts and success in the raising of a family, or success in careers outside of family, we were strengthened to minister in new ways to others

-    this was the success of being part of the winning religion – Christianity, the foundation of all the great institutions of Western society – best to go with the winner

-    this was being part of the successful church that everyone came to attend – look at the liveliness of the Sunday School

-    this kind of life of faith we could easily embrace

-    The Jesus who performs miracles in our midst, revealing His divine power, who has all the right answers.

-    This is the Jesus we want to follow – this is the Jesus of the palm branches, the sign of kingly triumph.  This is the way the disciples were excited about – can I sit on your right hand and on your left in your kingdom?


It is a foretaste of the triumph each of us will know in heaven.  In Revelation St. John writes, "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands."  [Rev. vii. 9.]


But the way to this success, this triumph, strangely, is revealed in the second triumphal entry of Jesus into the heavenly Jerusalem.  The way of the Cross is the stumbling block, it is not so easy to understand, it is perhaps not the triumph we first thought we were embracing when we embraced Jesus.


-     The way of the cross reveals itself to us when in our Christian lives there no longer seems to be an upward ascent

-     It happens when there is a certain humiliation and mocking of society – our children no longer see us as gods, our careers come to a ceiling or to an end and we are being replaced by others, we are fading away from the limelight, the buzz and whirl of the world with its new technologies is unconcerned that we are left sometimes bewildered,

-     physically, our health is diminishing, we experience a certain humiliation as our bodies do not work as they once did

-     the church we are a part of is one that is increasingly marginalized – looking more and more ridiculous to the world for all sorts of reasons

-     this is the Jesus of suffering – a loss of health, a loss of influence, the loneliness that fills us as we continue to live with the loss of loved ones or the loss of their vitality

-     this is the life of faith we are less eager to embrace – the careful searching of our hearts to see our own sin, our foolishness and to confess not just our reluctant-sometimes-dependence upon God but our utter and complete dependence upon God to save us

-     this is the life of crucifying our wayward desires

-     This is the Jesus we don’t really want to follow – this is the Jesus of the Cross.  To follow Him and His way we need great courage.


This holy week we are witness to this second Jesus, this Jesus of the Cross.  As we hold before our eyes His passion and death through the witnesses of the four gospellers, Jesus gives us courage.  Here is something new, a deep mystery of love being shown us.  Here Jesus pours out his life for us and shows us the way.


Whoever would come after me, let him deny himself,

and take up his cross and follow me.


It is not to make a virtue of failure.  It is not embracing failure for failure’s sake, but the transformation of our ideas of what is success and what is failure.  When the world looks upon us as pathetic, we look back at it with the loving eyes of Jesus, embracing our sufferings and our humiliations in faith, knowing this is the way of perfection, it is the way of the Cross.


It is the Jesus of the Cross who leads us to the Jesus of the palms.  This is why we have this symbol of the palm cross which holds together these two teachings, the two Gospels we have heard today: the palm, a symbol of the victory that our Lord makes possible for us; and in the shape of the Cross – the way and means to that victory.

LET this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who…made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant…and humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father.




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