“You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free”. (John 8:32)
Jesus and his followers send a message to the world on what is now known as the first Palm Sunday – Jesus’ triumphant entrance into the city of Jerusalem. This message is a communication of truth, a truth that will soon entangle Jesus and many of his followers in a choice between life and death. But on this day, it is a celebration of freedom, a freedom from the tyranny of Rome, a freedom from the tyranny of a corrupt religious system. Jesus offers truth, and the truth will set you free!
Jesus represents the kingdom of God that is a kingdom exemplified with love, hope and encouragement. He talks about a kingdom of living that is different than the kingdoms offered in the world. His message is about establishing this heavenly kingdom on earth as it is also in heaven. “Thy Kingdom, come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. (Matthew 6:10) He teaches simplicity: Give us this bread our daily bread. He tells us not to just worry about our own food, shelter and welfare, but to also care for the needs of others, especially those that do not have the resources or abilities to care for themselves”.
Jesus speaks to us about a kingdom of social justice, where the have not’s will have the same opportunities and rights as those that are more influential, connected, and prosperous. In his message of justice, Jesus tells us to stand against the things that conflict with God’s kingdom and the social mores and norms contrary to his teachings. This is what Jesus means when he says: “Pick up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24-26). Jesus is saying, if you are going to follow me it might not always be a pleasant cup to drink from, but drink you must, if you do say you are a follower of my Way. You shall know the truth and the truth shall set your free!
Why do we celebrate Palm Sunday, and why is it important? Holy Week is the last week of Lent. It begins with Palm Sunday, and continues with liturgies on Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the historical meaning of Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem. We take time to let the world know that we are followers of Jesus and we are not ashamed to act like it. The Apostle Paul said this about being ashamed to march for Jesus in the public eye: “I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Romans 1:16) Who walked with us today around the neighborhood? What was it like? Did you enjoy it? What did you learn from the walk? Shall we do it again next year?
Jesus was not ashamed to process (to process is to parade) into Jerusalem to let them know that God is higher and above all forms of government and leadership in the world. Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is all about ways to live our life so that we can identify with Jesus by living the same way He did, to the best of our ability.
On Palm Sunday, our procession tells the world that we are joyful and delighted to have Jesus as our true leader. Jesus is the Messiah and leader of our church. “Hosanna in the highest”. “All hail king Jesus! All hail Emmanuel (God with us) King of Kings and Lord of Lords”.
One last thing that we miss in the readings of Holy Week is the love and passion of God for us. Underneath all the suffering, imperial and religious injustices of Holy Week, we see the love of God, so deep and calm that we are invited to drink from the well of water that never runs dry. We see this in the picture that Mary Magdalene gives us in the anointing of Jesus feet, just before Palm Sunday. She pours out the expensive nard on the feet of Jesus and wipes his feet with her hair. This is the priceless gift of Love that Jesus recognizes as a gift that Mary anoints Him with and that he too will give his priceless gift, his life, knowing that he could have changed his teaching, but the love he has for us and all people is just too great.
Choose with me this day to follow Jesus, just as the early disciples followed him into Jerusalem, let us follow him on our journey of faith into the New Jerusalem, a city whose architect and maker is God, the City that needs no light, For Jesus will be our light. He will reign and shine ever bright. On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the gift of choice, the gift to follow Christ in his journey to Jerusalem. In this choice to choose the way of Jesus: ‘We shall know the truth, and the truth will set us free’!
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen