Palm Sunday – March 24, 2024

Posted on March 25, 2024, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

March 24, 2024

Palm Sunday

Mark 11:1-11
Mark 14:3-9
Psalm 118:25-29

Worship Service Video Sermon Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

We’ve spent last few Sundays learning about the heated conversations that the religious leaders had with Jesus as they questioned his authority on Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week. And they set the stage for what will happen on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

But today, we back up a little bit so that we have the reading of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday – which happened before all those conversations. And the event in the reading we just heard happened after the conversations. And after Jesus is anointed, Judas goes to the chief priests to betray him.

So, our two readings today bookend Sunday through Tuesday night of Holy Week. And all of the readings together – the celebration and the contention – give us a window into what was going on in Mark’s community as they first heard this gospel.

It was written in about the year 70. And, at that time, the Christian community was in crisis. They weren’t sure if they should stick together and hold onto their faith – or if they should try to align themselves more with Rome in order to survive. They genuinely didn’t know what to do.

And Mark’s answer to their situation was this account of Jesus’ life. And through it, he encouraged Christians to find a leader that would resist the Roman Empire; someone who would both be consistent with the old Jewish practices and represent a way forward that included power through the horror of the cross and all the tensions created when we see a king who is crucified.

In this gospel, Mark reminds us that, in Jesus, we get a leader – a king – that we don’t expect. Because in Jesus, we get the king we need.

And where that really starts to become clear is on the first Palm Sunday. Because when Jesus rode into town, that whole scene mocked and ridiculed the typical military parades of that time. It made fun of the Roman government.

The Mount of Olives was the location from which people expected the final battle for Jerusalem’s liberation would begin. And that is where Jesus began his “final campaign.” But the supplies he used weren’t weapons of war, but simply a colt. Not even a full-grown donkey.

The people greeted him like they would any victorious military ruler. But Jesus was unarmed, riding an animal that was probably too small for him to be on, in a parade that was meant to expose the pretentiousness of the “powers that be.” And the people recognized that, and they loved it!

[1]Unlike other powers that had conquered Jerusalem in the past, Jesus forged a new path – a new way to change the world. He came as someone who humbly rejected domination and who identified with the poor. He was vulnerable and refused to rely on violence to get his way. He embodied a different understanding of power and invited the people to see and live in the world in a new way.

Everyone who cheered for Jesus that day was right there with him – until they realized that he meant it, that that’s who he really was. That he wasn’t the kind of ruler they wanted or expected – because he was God’s type of king. Then they weren’t quite as enamored with him.

Their change in attitude started to become clear on the night Jesus was anointed in Simon’s home. In a matter of a few days, Jesus went from being celebrated and acclaimed to being mocked and humiliated. And by the end of the week, he was dead.

Looking back on the events of that day from our perspective, it’s easy for us to see the differences between the people’s expectations and hopes for Jesus in contrast to who he actually was. And it’s easy for us to think, “Oh, we aren’t like them. We get it. We know who Jesus was.”

But, in reality, our expectations aren’t always that different from what theirs were. Yes, we talk about Jesus’ humility and the characteristics he embodied and asks us to live into. And we do strive to live according to his way.

But we often put limits on it. For example, we only do it for certain people, or only when it’s convenient or easy. But Jesus is God’s type of king – and that knows no boundaries.

As Christians, when we tell the story of who Jesus is for us, we don’t normally tell it from the perspective of an event like Palm Sunday. We usually tell it from the perspective of the Resurrection – another celebration. It’s difficult for us to tell it any other way, because without the resurrection our faith is incomplete.

But if we don’t take seriously events like Palm Sunday and also the cross, and what they mean for our lives, then our faith is still incomplete and Easter Sunday is nothing more than an excuse to have another party.

Because when we consider that Palm Sunday exposes the suffering and all that is wrong in the world, and that we believe the cross of Jesus represents the suffering of all human beings and it’s the burden that Jesus identified with and took upon himself…

…when we consider all of that – as Christians, as people who follow Jesus, we recognize that we’re called to go to the cross to stand in solidarity with all who suffer for any reason.

Last fall, we learned that, in solidarity with the suffering in Gaza due to the war between Israel and Palestine, the main churches in Jordan, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem agreed to cancel all public Christmas celebrations.

The same announcement has not been made for Easter. But, leading up to Easter, the Via Dolorosa – the Stations of the Cross – in Jerusalem is normally packed with tourists. But this year it is nearly empty because of the war. And so, again in solidarity, there are pilgrims all over the world walking their own Via Dolorosa and praying for peace not only between Israel and Palestine, but for the world.

[2]The Church of Scotland recently published prayers for people to pray wherever they walk this walk. As part of those resources, the Right Reverend Sally Foster-Fulton, who is the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, wrote (paraphrased here):

If you pray, pray from your guts, not your lips – offer a prayer that moves in you and through you – one that calls you to reach out to a fearful neighbour, to speak up for peace and calm and the unity of humanity. …

 Wherever you are, check in on your Jewish neighbours, friends, and colleagues. Wherever you are, check in on your neighbours, friends, and colleagues who have family in Gaza.

 Wherever you are, be mindful of your words…be kind to one another wherever you find each other.

 …We are one global family….

When we stand at the cross in solidarity with people who are suffering, we don’t just stand there to offer thoughts and prayers and then walk away.

When we stand at the cross in solidarity with people who are suffering, we remember whose type of king Jesus is and enter into their suffering with them. We meet them wherever they are and accompany them. We walk with them when they experience hatred or violence, and speak out against those things to keep them from happening to someone else.

When people are suffering, we accompany them through every kind of life situation. We become experts on the cause of their suffering and advocate for them when needed, seeing them through to the end – whatever that may be and for however long it takes.

When we remember that Jesus is God’s type of king, it changes us. It frees us from our expectations of him and gives us the courage to live into love and compassion and mercy and grace and forgiveness all the time, not just when we’re around certain people or when it’s convenient.

It carries us through what happens on the days following Palm Sunday, sustaining us through the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday – holding us as we wait on Holy Saturday. Showing us that the Day of Resurrection isn’t just another reason to have a party but, rather, a true celebration of who Jesus really is.

Because the Jesus we celebrate today and every day is God’s type of king – the king we need him to be. Thanks be to God! Amen.