As a Pastor, I have a love/hate relationship with Palm Sunday.
I love my memories of being a child, marching in triumphant procession through the sanctuary waving a palm branch and singing. It was festive and fun and one of the only roles of significance the children had in “big church”. It was a time of proclaiming Jesus as Lord, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David.”
Yet, as a pastor now looking back on those times, it seems to be a studied case of missing the point. Yes, men and women and children shouted and celebrated as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s colt. Yes, the city resounded with praise for this miracle worker from Galilee. Yet just a few days later, these same people who shouted Jesus’s name in praise were shouting for him to be crucified. Palm Sunday, in many ways, represents our hypocrisy – it betrays the superficial devotion of our hearts.
Palm Sunday is, for me, one of the saddest days of the year. The crowds were so excited because they thought they could enthrone a puppet-king, a god who was just like them. Yet not even a week under his “rule,” after seeing the threat he was to their self-satisfied religious elitism and his refusal to be defined by their expectations, these same crowds bowed to the status quo, condemning the Righteous One to death. Palm Sunday is the exultation of an idol. Easter is the exultation of the One True God. Amazing how different the crowds were on those two days.
Palm Sunday is a rude awakening for my soul because it brings to mind all the times I call Jesus “Lord,” but don’t actually do what he says. It is a convicting reminder that I really like God when it seems that he is just like me, but that I often rebel when it becomes clear that he is not. “I AM WHO I AM. I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE!” declares God to Moses in the burning bush. “I AM NO ONE’S PUPPET KING.”
I’d love to be exuberant this Palm Sunday, but it just isn’t in me. I find myself consumned with questions of my own devotion – how to serve this man who comes in fulfillment of all prophecy, who is God Incarnate and so completely other, yet who wants to be known and who calls me friend? How do I go beyond a superficial faith into one of substance, intimacy and obedience? How do I submit myself and posture my heart to receive God on his own terms, for who he is, and not who I want him to be?
Wether you share my struggles with Palm Sunday or not, I wish you a good start to Holy Week and I pray you encounter and experience God in a fresh way this year. Thanks for reading friends.