“Hosanna!” (Mark 11:9)
It’s almost Palm Sunday. Churches all over are preparing for what I have come to call the “second most important” Sunday of the year. I know this because my Mama always dressed me in my second-best dress on Palm Sunday. That might sound silly in 2019, but it taught me a big lesson. My mother understood Palm Sunday and Holy Week as completely crucial to our faith development. Without them, I could not understand the most important Sunday of the year, Easter.
Jesus, by entering Jerusalem on a donkey, set into motion the events that led to the cross. He did this out of a deep love. Scripture reveals that Jesus did not accidentally find himself on that donkey. The Gospel texts tell us that Jesus gave directions … action verbs like “sent” & “said”, “sat”, “entered”, and “went.” Twice I have stood on the Mount of Olives and looked over the Kidron Valley into Jerusalem. I have asked in my spirit, “Why, Jesus? When there are so many places you could have hidden, so many directions in which you could have fled, so many friends who would have taken you in?”
Just as he came to us as a refugee infant, he also comes to us as a humble king. What wondrous love is this – to invoke scriptural imagination by riding on a donkey when the whole city is talking about you, when you have raised the dead and frustrated the powerful …. to deliberately set into motion events that will lead to conflict and death. Those “Hosannas” … they are not acclamations or affirmations. They are not “Atta boy” or “You go, Jesus.” They are commands. The translation is “Save us now.” “Hosanna” is an ironic, and even a bittersweet, term. It is an ancient phrase imploring a king, a person of power. “Save us now” is an appeal for deliverance. Ironically, the very people who proclaim Jesus king and want to be saved by his kingship will turn against him, and in only a few days’ time.
Each Holy Week we get to decide. Will we thoroughly allow him to “save us now” or will we follow the crowds? Palm Sunday was deliberate. And so will be our response. Deliberate. The Christian life is a bit like Palm Sunday – deliberate but also bittersweet. Bittersweet, you know the taste: dark chocolate, arugula, basil, seeing your kid off to college, moving on after a difficult relationship, saying yes to Hospice, doing the right thing even though it might leave you lonely or sometimes even lead to death. That is the taste of bittersweet. And Palm Sunday is the bittersweetest day of the year. My prayers attend you as you prepare for messages, your hearts, your family, even your “second best” outfits.