- Zachariah 9.9 (CEB)
As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If someone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’” Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “Its master needs it.” They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it. As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road. As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. They said, “Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.” Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!” He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”
- Luke 19:28-40 (CEB)
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.
- Isaiah 53.1-4 (NRSV)
When I was a kid, many churches in my neck of the woods considered Roman Catholics fair game for Christian witness and conversion. This confused me, because it seemed like they lived the Christian life much the way we did (which is to say, most of the time not very well), and it seemed like we should be friends. I didn’t have the last word though, and in our mission lessons in Sunday School we learned that the best place to locate a mission center was smack dab across the street from the local Catholic church. Or at least catawampus to it. That way you could reach the native heathens, as well as those who should know better.
In an effort to clear up this confusion, I asked my preacher why Catholics weren’t considered Christians. He (of course he!) said it was because they left Christ on the Cross. Huh? Look at any crucifix, he said, and you will see a dead Jesus hangin’ on the cross. They don’t believe in the Resurrection!
I reckon I should confess that I didn’t buy his argument; didn’t then, don’t now. In fact, one could argue that many of my church folks didn’t believe in the Cross. Sure, they loved to sing old hymns like The Old Rugged Cross and Washed in the Blood; but Holy Week for them included celebrations of Palm Sunday and Easter. That’s it; they skipped right over the passion of Jesus – the doubting, the agony, the suffering, and the dying – to the glory of the Risen Lord!
I humbly suggest that somewhere along the way, one should “get it”; that at some point the spiritual life leads to the realization that passion necessarily precedes glory; that without the Cross, there can be no Resurrection. The poet Ann Weems has expressed it in eloquent if disconcerting verse in a poem called simply Holy Week. “And on that darkest of days, each of us must stand beneath the tree and watch the dying if we are to be there when the stone is rolled away.”
Palm Sunday is upon us. And we will celebrate with joy the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We will wave our palms and shout praises to our king! And this is as it should be, for Palm Sunday affords us a glimpse of how this week, that seems like the end, is actually the beginning. So let’s wave our palms and lay them at the feet of Jesus! Let’s revel in the hope that radiates from this day. Perhaps in this way we will be able to summon the courage to walk with Jesus into this holiest of weeks that begins with Palm and Passion, and concludes on the morning of the third day.
We would love to share this week with you at Overland Park Christian Church, starting with worship on Sunday at 8:30 and 10:30.