Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Procession: John 12:12–16
Mass: Isaiah 50:4–7; Philippians 2:6–11; Mark 14:1–15:47

Hosanna!
Jesus reveals he is the Messiah. But he is to be a messiah of peace and not a warrior-king messiah.

Gilbert Frankau tells the story of a friend of his who was an artillery officer in World War I.

In those days there was no radar to guide artillery fire to its target. Shells were simply lobbed over hills and trees, much as one heaves a rock at a target.

Sometimes a soldier was sent up in a hot-air balloon to give directions to the gunners. He’d yell down to them, “A little to the left” or “A little to the right.”

“Whenever I went up in that balloon,”
said Frankau’s friend, “I was frightened.
I as a perfect target for enemy gunfire, and I knew it.
I never got over my fear. But I never let my fear keep me on the ground.”

That story will help us appreciate better the gospel passage we just read.

It tool tremendous courage for Jesus to go to Jerusalem on this particular Passover. It took unbelievable courage. John’s Gospel explains why.

“The time for the Passover Festival was near, and many people went up . . . to Jerusalem. . . . They were looking for Jesus, and . . . asked one another, ‘What do you think?
Surely he will no come to the festival, will he?’ The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where Jesus was, he must report it, so that they could arrest him.” John 11:55–57

That sets us up for the actual entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
What is the deeper meaning behind the way Jesus entered Jerusalem and the way the people greeted him?

To answer that question, let’s review how Jesus entered the city. John’s Gospel says:

“Jesus found a donkey and rode on it, just as the scripture says, ‘Do not be afraid, city of Zion! Here comes your king,
riding on a young donkey.’ ” John 12:14–15

As Jesus rode into the city, the people waved palm branches and shouted:

“Praise God! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! God bless the King of Israel!” John 12:13

John ends his description with this unusual comment:

“[The disciples of Jesus] did not understand this at the time; but when Jesus had been raised to glory, they remembered that the scripture said this about him and that that had done this for him.” John 12:16

What is the deeper meaning, then, behind the way Jesus entered the city and the way the people greeted him—waving palms and shouting “Hosanna”?

Oddly enough, the key to the answer lies in the donkey Jesus was riding.

Our modern Western notion of a donkey is not a flattering one. We think of a donkey as a stupid animal.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton popularized this notion in a poem. In it he has the donkey reflect on its ugliness and say to itself:

“When fishes few and forests walked And figs grew upon thorn, Some moment when the moon was blood Then surely
I was born.
“With monstrous head and sickening cry And ears like errant
wings, The devils’ walking parodyOn all four-footed
things. . . .

“Fools! For I also had my hour, One far fierce hour and sweet; There was a shout about my ears, And palms before my feet.”

And so the donkey says, in effect:

“You modern people may ridicule and mock me, but of all the animals on earth, I as the one chosen to carry on my back the Savior of the world.”

Although we make fun of the donkey, people in biblical times honored it.

The donkey was an animal of peace, as opposed to the horse,
which was an animal of war—carrying soldiers into battle.

Zechariah had prophesied that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus now carries out Zechariah’s prophecy. As he does, he makes two important statements.

First,
he affirms that he is the Messiah of Israel.

Second,
he reveals what his messianic mission will be.

This revelation was badly needed in Jesus’ time, because many people were getting confused about the Messiah’s mission.
For example, some thought an important part of the Messiah’s mission would be to rally people to his cause and drive the Romans out of Palestine into the sea.

Jesus’ action of riding into Jerusalem on an animal of peace
flies in the face of this idea. It reveals that the Messiah isn’t going to be a warrior-king who will be served by Israel’s enemies.

Jesus hasn’t come to sit on a throne and be served by conquered peoples. He has come to kneel on the floor and wash the feet of his subjects.

Jesus hasn’t come to rally people behind him and do battle against other people. He has come to rally them behind him
and do battle against poverty, hunger, hatred, and all forms of injustice.

Jesus hasn’t come to condemn people. He has come to forgive them.

Jesus hasn’t come to destroy people’s dreams. He has come to fulfill them in the most wonderful way imaginable.

Jesus hasn’t come to force people to follow him. He has come to invite them.

It’s this Jesus whom we great today.

It’s this Jesus who wants to enter our hearts, in a special way, in the Holy Week ahead.

It’s this Jesus who is in our midst right now as we begin our liturgy, by processing through the church.

So let’s rejoice and sing with Christians everywhere:

“Praise God! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! God bless the King of Israel!” John 12:13




Series II
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Procession: John 12:12–16
Mass: Isaiah 50:4–7; Philippians 2:6–11; Mark 14:1–15:47

Men in Red Turbans
We are called upon to challenge the crowd, not to follow it.

Atheatrical group of professional actors was hired to do a stage production of the passion of Jesus. That is, they were hired to act out the story of the suffering and death of Jesus, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with Good Friday.

All the main characters—like Jesus, Pilate, and Peter—were played by members of the theatrical group.

All the minor characters—like the people in the crowd scenes—were played by local people.

One of the minor characters picked to play in the crowd scene
was a boy named Drew. He was excited about being chosen.

On the night of the play, the minor characters were called together. The director introduced them to a dozen men wearing red turbans.

“These are your leaders,’’ he said.
“When you get on stage, watch them carefully. Do everything they do! Shout everything they shout!’’

Then the director stressed that two scenes, especially, were important. The first was the opening Palm Sunday scene.
The second was the Good Friday scene, where Jesus was condemned to death.

Young Drew could hardly wait for the Palm Sunday scene to begin. Finally, the curtain went up. The men in red turbans shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’’

The crowd shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’’

Drew got so caught up in the shouting that he forgot about the audience and the play. It was Palm Sunday and he was praising Jesus.

Before Drew realized it, the scene was over. The men in the red turbans led the crowd off the stage.

There Drew waited excitedly for the second important scene: the condemnation of Jesus on Good Friday.

Just before the curtain went up, the men in the red turbans reminded the crowd: “Watch us carefully! Do everything we do! Shout everything we shout!’’

The curtain rose, revealing a balcony. On it stood two people:
Pilate in a gold robe and Jesus in a purple robe.

Pilate said to the crowd, “Which man do you want me to set free: Jesus or Barabbas?’’ The men in red turbans shouted, “Barabbas!’’ The crowd shouted, “Barabbas!’’

When the shouting died down, Pilate said to the crowd,
“What, then, should I do with Jesus?’’

The men in the red turbans shouted, “Crucify him!
The crowd shouted, “Crucify him!’’

Once again, Drew got so caught up in the shouting that he forgot the audience and the play. Suddenly he found himself screaming, “No! No! Don’t crucify him! Please don’t!’’

Years later Drew recalled his passion play experience.
He said that it taught him something he never really thought about before.

The people who shouted “Hosanna!’’ on Palm Sunday
were the same people who shouted “Crucify him!’’ on Good Friday.

And the reason they did it was because the men in the red turbans told them to do it.

Many people in today’s world are like the actors and actresses in the crowd in that play. They perform on cue.

They don’t think for themselves.
They don’t speak for themselves.
They simply mimic the men in the red turbans.

They don’t take a stand against evil in our world.
They simply follow the leader, blend in with the crowd.

For example, they don’t take a stand against the assault on innocent human life, whether this life be in the womb or in a hospital bed.

They don’t take a stand against the discrimination of minorities, whether these minorities be Catholics, Jews, blacks, or Hispanics.

They don’t take a stand against the moral erosion of entertainment in our society, whether this entertainment be on television or in the local theater.

In short, they don’t stand up for Christ and Christ’s teaching in our world.

And so Christ suffers and dies all over again.

But we, as Christ’s followers, are called upon to be different. And your presence here shows that you want to express that difference.

We are called upon to challenge the men in the red turbans.
We are called upon to challenge the crowd.
We are called upon to take a stand for Christ and for his teaching in today’s world.

And we are called upon to do this even at the expense of great sacrifice. But we do this for Christ, who sacrificed so much for us.

The story of Drew’s experience in the passion play makes us ask ourselves how we can do even more to bear witness to Christ and to his teaching.

It makes us ask ourselves how we can be even more aggressive in our efforts to advance God’s kingdom on earth.

It makes us ask ourselves how we can do more, pray more, and sacrifice more for Christ, who did, prayed, and sacrificed so much for us.

Let’s close with a prayer:

Lord, help us realize that the same crowd that shouted “Hosanna!’’ on Palm Sunday shouted “Crucify him!’’
on Good Friday.

Help us realize that this happens not only in plays but also in real life.

Help us realize that when it does happen in real life,
Christ suffers and dies all over again.

Help us realize that as Christians we are called to be different.
We are to bear witness to Christ and to his teaching in our world, and not to follow the crowd.



Series III
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
John 12:12–16, Isaiah 50:4–7, Philippians 2:6–11, Mark 15:1–39

The Messiah
He will not wear a crown of gold, but a crown of thorns.

When Jesus had been raised to glory, they remembered that the scripture said this about him and they had done this for him.
Procession reading: John 12:16

ATV commercial showed a little girl holding a camera and snapping a picture. Immediately, out of the camera rolled a blank sheet of white paper.

Then something remarkable happened. As the light of the sun fell upon the blank sheet of paper, it slowly turned into a beautiful colored photograph.

That TV commercial helps us to better understand these words of Jesus. He says:

“When, however, the Spirit comes . . . he will lead you into all the truth.” John 16:12–13

Before the coming of the Spirit, many events in Jesus’ life seemed like those blank sheets of paper that rolled out of the little girl’s camera. They seemed to his disciples to be blank and devoid of any special meaning.

Not until the light of the Holy Spirit fell upon them did his disciples discover that these events were not blank. They were filled with special meaning.

And so just as the light of the sun transformed the sheet of white paper into something meaningful and beautiful, so the light of the Holy Spirit transformed the events of Jesus’ life
into something meaningful and beautiful.

Take Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, which we read before the procession of palms. It reads:

[When the crowd saw Jesus riding on the donkey, they shouted,]
“God bless the King of Israel!”

Jesus found a donkey and rode on it, just as the scripture says . .
“Here comes your king, riding on a young donkey.” John 12:13–15

Commenting on the crowd’s enthusiastic reaction to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem riding on the donkey, John writes:

His disciples did not understand this at the time; but when Jesus had been raised to glory, they remembered that the scripture said this about him and they had done this for him. John 12:16

In other words, not until Jesus ascended to his Father and sent the Holy Spirit did the event reveal its special meaning.
And what was the meaning of the event?

Oddly enough, the key to the answer lies in the donkey Jesus was riding.
Our modern notion of a donkey is not a very flattering one.
We regard the donkey as a stupid animal and make fun of it.
But in biblical times people held the donkey in high regard.

The donkey was an animal of peace, as opposed to the horse, which was an animal of war and violence. It carried soldiers into battle and to death.

Centuries before Jesus, Zechariah had prophesied that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Zechariah wrote:

Shout for joy, you people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you! He comes . . . humble and riding on a donkey. . .

Your king will make peace among the nations; he will rule from sea to sea . . . to the ends of the earth. Zechariah 9:9–10

In today’s processional reading, Jesus fulfills Zechariah’s prophesy, affirming that he is, indeed, the Messiah.

More importantly, Jesus clarifies for his followers the kind of messiah he is.

And this revelation comes as a shocking surprise to many of them.

They were expecting a political messiah.
They were expecting a leader like David.
They were expecting a messiah who would catapult Israel into a position of international power and prestige.

Jesus had to correct these wrong notions. He had to reeducate the people gradually to understand the different kind of messiah he would be. Until he did, he could not reveal himself as the Messiah who was to come.

This explains why he continually told people he healed not to broadcast what he had done for him. It would reenforce their wrong notions about the Messiah and the kingdom he had come to inaugurate.

This explains why he continually told people he healed not to broadcast what he had done for him. It would reenforce their wrong notions about the Messiah and the kingdom he had come to inaugurate.

Jesus makes it clear that he did not come to sit on a throne and be served by conquered nations. He has come not to be served by others, but to serve them.

He has come to kneel on the floor and wash the feet of his disciples.

Jesus hasn’t come to rally people behind him to do battle against other nations. He has come to rally them behind him and do battle against poverty, hunger, hatred, and all forms of injustice.

Jesus has come not to condemn people. He has come to forgive them and teach them how to live and love.

Jesus hasn’t come to destroy people’s dreams. He has come to fulfill them in the most wonderful way imaginable.

It is this Jesus whom we greet today. It is this Jesus who wants to enter our hearts, in a special way, in the Holy Week ahead.

It is this Jesus who is in our midst right now as we celebrate this very special event in the life of Jesus.

So let us rejoice and sing with Christians everywhere:

Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

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