Palm Sunday serves as a mirror for us. Also called Passion Sunday, it’s a day when many ELCA congregations will process into worship and hear the Passion story.
Imagine yourself in the procession. Look for your face among the crowd as we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Now continue the journey into a worship service full of paradox as we listen to the readings. Here is where palms meet passion. Here triumph gives way to torture, and celebration turns to crucifixion.
Sometimes when we hear the Passion narrative, we distance ourselves from the actions of the crowd or Pontius Pilate. Part of the power of this story is that it allows us to see our own reflections. We are present in that angry crowd. We are there with the mocking soldiers, even those who nailed Jesus to the cross. You and I are there.
Palm/Passion Sunday gives us a clear view of our duplicitous nature. Certainly we can choose to look away and ignore the hypocrite in the mirror. Yet it won’t change that we are both saints and sinners. The more we see our reflections in the passion narrative, the more we see how we crucified Christ then and how we crucify him afresh today. When refugees are forgotten and discarded, Christ is crucified. When our neighbors are oppressed, ignored or exploited, Christ is crucified.
Palm/Passion Sunday gives us a clear view of our duplicitous nature. Certainly we can choose to look away and ignore the hypocrite in the mirror. Yet it won’t change that we are both saints and sinners.
Think about the times this week alone when anger, jealousy, selfishness or hate crept into our hearts. Think about the times when we chose, like Pilate, to please the crowd instead of pleasing God. Have you ever thought about God’s amazing love for us—despite our sinfulness—and just cried?
Indeed, God’s word is like a mirror. It allows us to see ourselves in the hopeful crowd shouting, “Hosanna in the highest!” as well as in the murderous mob crying, “Crucify him!”
It may not sound like it, but this is good news. When we can see ourselves at the Mount of Olives waving palms, cheering, “Jesus, save us!” we see how much we need him. Likewise, when we can see ourselves in Judas’ betrayal, in the distant disciples and in the soldiers who beat, mocked and crucified him, then we know how much we need Jesus.
As we peek ahead and see the glimmer of the glory of Easter, our reflection is there too. Walking this path with Jesus through palms and passion brings us to a deeper understanding of Easter. Jesus, the prince of paradox. Jesus, the hosanna of Palm Sunday. Jesus, the humiliation of Good Friday and Jesus, the hallelujah of Easter morning!