We begin in the twelfth chapter of Exodus, verses twenty-nine through thirty-two. Do you remember the story? We cover it annually. The descendants of Abraham had been spared from a great famine by following Joseph into Egypt. During his life they had been shown favor, but time changed things. Joseph died and his descendants had fallen into disfavor. They were enslaved by the Egyptians. Their lives were hard, and they cried out to God. The Almighty heard their cries and sent them a great liberator, Moses. Their freedom does not come in an instant. It comes at the end of a series of great plagues. The last was the worst, the death of the first-born sons. The will of the Pharaoh was broken, and the Hebrew people were given their freedom. It was a great day for God’s Chosen People. That day was such a great day that the people held an annual festival to remember what God had done just for them. The highlight of that festival was the Seder. It is a meal with a message. That whole annual feast is called the Passover.
Fast forward the clock thirteen hundred years. The people came to Jerusalem to remember what God had done for them one more time. This brings us to the scripture lesson for today. It was Passover, and the crowd was energized. The crowd was energized every Passover. I am not being critical. I am being honest. You cannot blame them. They were energized for the same reasons we are energized during our annual festivals, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
Some were energized because they were away from home! There is some truth to that statement. Their lives were hard. Every day looked about the same. Every week looked about the same. Sometimes it is just nice to get away. There was a law that said all Jewish males within a fifty-mile radius of Jerusalem were required to attend the Passover in Jerusalem. That law wasn’t needed. People didn’t attend the Passover because they had to go. They attended the Passover because they wanted to go. It would be like passing a law that everyone was required to celebrate Thanksgiving. It isn’t necessary. We look forward to Thanksgiving and they looked forward to Passover. If nothing else, it was a time to just get away. Have you ever gone away to just get away?
I have a good friend who went to North Carolina to celebrate his brother-in-law’s 50th birthday. (You know how some have to make a big deal out of their birthday!) When he returned home, I asked him, “Rick, did you have a good time?” He answered, he said, “Yes, I guess.” Then he told me about his trip. They were in complete isolation. The restaurants didn’t serve his favorite adult beverage. The weather was cold and foggy. His bed was lumpy. The party, itself, was attended by some shady characters. At the end of his stories I said, “So you didn’t have a good time?” He said, “Well, it was nice just getting away.” It isn’t just his story; it is our stories. Maybe it was their story? Sometimes, just getting away can be exciting! Maybe the crowd was excited because they had just gotten away? If you like getting away occasionally say, “Hosanna!”
Some were energized because they were with the most important people in their lives! Passover had both a religious and a secular side. The religious side had to do with remembering what God had done for the Hebrew people. The secular side had to do with that day. It was a reunion. Everyone was in Jerusalem. People you had not seen in a year or longer were there. They were excited because they were with the most important people in their lives. Passover was like a great family reunion. It is exciting to see family. (It is more exciting to see them go home.)
Several years ago, the news was filled with the story of Katheryn DePrill. Do you remember her story? She is the young woman who was looking for her biological mother on Facebook. Years earlier, her biological mother had left her as an infant in the bathroom of their local Burger King. Katheryn was looking for her to fill a void in her life. When her biological mother stepped forward, she openly admitted her mistake and told her side of the story. She had been sexually attacked at the age of sixteen, had the baby alone in her bedroom and headed to Burger King. She is relieved to know her baby is such a wonderful young woman. Katheryn’s biological mother cannot thank her parents enough for what they have done for her baby. Katheryn said when she met her biological mother there was a lot of emotions and everyone was excited. Maybe the people were just excited on Palm Sunday because they were reunited with the people in their lives? If you like seeing the most important people in your life, occasionally say, “Hosanna!”
Some were energized because they had renewed hope! The source of that hope was Jesus. Everyone knew the name Jesus. Everyone had heard about his teachings. Everyone had heard about his healings. Jesus was the one who brought Lazarus back to life! Some had felt his powerful presence. Everyone believed Jesus was going to usher in something new, and they were hungry for change. There is no other way to say it. The crowd was energized because Jesus was offering them hope. They had grown tired of Roman rules and domination. They longed for political change. Everything they did that day was political. They laid palm branches on the ground and waved them in the air. That is what previous generations did for their conquering heroes. They yelled political things. “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” They were excited because they knew change was coming. They were right, yet they were wrong. Change was coming but it was not political change. Jesus did not come for political change. Jesus came for spiritual change. Jesus came to lead a spiritual revolution. You know the story.
Palm Sunday is the beginning of the end. For Jesus, there would be no turning back. This is the truth. Holy Week means nothing for those who believe they can earn your salvation. It is nothing more than a celebration Spring or an excuse to eat ham. However, for those of us who understand our only hope for salvation is in the sacrificial death of Jesus, Holy Week means so much more. It is not enough to just return next week and celebrate the resurrection. This is so much more.
This year, I challenge you to take a few minutes out of each day this week and remember what Jesus did on that day. It will change the way you experience Palm Sunday. It will change the way you experience Easter. This is what the scriptures tell us:
On Palm Sunday, Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem by the crowd. He was the eye of the storm. It was the point of no return. He spent that night in Bethany.
On Holy Monday, Jesus returned to Jerusalem. On the way he cursed the fig tree because it was not baring fruit, like the Hebrew faith had stop bearing fruit. It would be the only thing Jesus ever cursed. Then, he drove the money changers out of the temple. It was a place of prayer, not profit. He returned to Bethany that night.
On Holy Tuesday, Jesus returned to Jerusalem and saw the dead fig tree. He went to the temple and frustrated the authorities. He went to the Mount of Olives and taught about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of time.
On Holy Wednesday, Jesus rested. Jesus did nothing of note on that day. However, it was on Wednesday, Judas Iscariot agreed to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, and Mary anointed Jesus’s feet with expensive perfume. The Master was preparing to die.
On Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and had his last supper with them. He transformed the traditional Seder into something new, communion, a living memorial. In the evening, Jesus went to the garden to prayer. It was there Judas Iscariot betrayed him with a kiss and was arrested. He was taken to the home of the High Priest, Caiaphas. They made their case against Jesus.
On Holy Friday, the Roman Governor, Pontius Pitot sentenced Jesus to death. The order was carried out and Jesus, the sinless one, was executed between two criminals. He was the perfect sacrifice. His sacrificial death covered the sins of the world. That means he died for you. Jesus’s corpse was claimed by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. They placed it in a tomb.
On Holy Saturday, some call it “Silent Saturday,” nothing happened because Jesus was dead.
On Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day, Jesus returns to life and changes our world forever. Without Jesus there is no hope of eternal life. He died for all of us, and it all began on Palm Sunday, the beginning of the end.
Last week, I told you about the cathedral in Milan, Italy. Do you remember? It is
such a large structure with five front doors. Each door leads to a different aisle in the sanctuary. The center three doors have carvings of note. Over the arch of one of the side doors is a carved wreath of roses, and underneath it is the legend, “All that which pleases is but for a moment.” Over arch of the other side door is sculptured a cross, and there are the words, “All that which troubles us is but for a moment.” But underneath the great central entrance to the main aisle is the inscription, “Only the eternal is important.” Jesus came to save our souls.