Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Palm Sunday - Hosanna
Volume 6 No. 338 March 19, 2016
We are into the Passion Week. The week begins with Palm Sunday, Hosanna Sunday, when Jesus had the triumphant entry to Jerusalem. He received a "Royal" welcome - the reception fit for a King. People spread out clothes and palm leaves on the read and shouted slogans calling him the Messiah, the one who came in the name of God.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
The King of Israel!
Hosanna in the highest!

We recall this event in our service by going out of the church in a procession, stopping in the west, south, east and north of the church to stop to read the Gospel Reading. Everyone will be carrying the palm leaves. It is a very joyous occasions, especially for the children. They are normally called to sit still and behave in the church; but today they have permission to celebrate. They are encouraged to cheer and march and draw attention. The love sprinkling the cut palm leaves on the way.

I have some mixed feeling of Palm Sunday. In some churches, Palm Sunday is also called Passion Sunday, when the whole passion story is read. With Palm Sunday comes the arrival of holy week in all its darkness, in all its blinding mystery, and speculation. The same people who glorified Jesus as a King on Palm Sunday turned against him on Good Friday, and shouted, "crucify him" in front of Pilate. They were mocking Jesus on his way to Calvary and while he was hanging on the cross wondering why he can not save himself.

Bob Deffinbaugh explains:

The so-called "triumphal entry" of our Lord into Jerusalem is anything but a triumph, as we can see from the tears shed by our Lord in Luke's parallel account (Luke 19:41-44). Those who enthusiastically welcome Jesus to Jerusalem as the "King of Israel" are some of the same people who, in a week's time, will be crying out, "We have no king, but Caesar!" (John 19:15). Those who cry out, "Hosanna!" (Save now!) in our text, will be shouting, "He saved others. Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one!" (Luke 23:35). It is not a triumphal entry at all, but nonetheless it is a very significant event in the life of our Lord and in the history of the nation Israel. This is one of the very few events which is recorded by all four Gospels in the New Testament.

The fact that every Gospel has an account of the "triumphal entry" of our Lord into Jerusalem indicates to us that it is indeed a most significant event. On our Lord's part, it is a most dramatic and emphatic claim to be the Messiah, the "King of Israel." At the same time, it is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. Jesus does not come as a conquering king, ready to lead Israel against the Romans, overthrowing their rule. He has come as the "Prince of Peace" and as the "Lamb of God," whose death will provide the cure for sin.

This is a major turning point in Israel's history. To joyfully welcome Him as "their kind of king" is not to receive Him as the "Lamb of God," sent to "take away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). To receive their kind of Jesus is to reject God's kind of King. This apparent reception is, in reality, a rejection. It is destined to result in rejection. It will take a few days to become evident, but when they finally grasp that Jesus has not come to fulfill their expectations, but rather to be a different kind of Messiah, they will quickly turn against Him, rejecting Him as their king. Those who hail Jesus as the "King of Israel" at the "triumphal entry" will a few days later cry out "Crucify, crucify!" As we continue to read of our Lord's arrest, trials, and crucifixion in John, the word "king" appears a number of times. It will there be evident that Jesus is not the people's kind of king.

Jesus knew what is going on as well as what is going to happen. He told that many times to his disciples. They just did not quite understand it at that time. Riding through the streets of Jerusalem, Jesus knew then what we know now: This honor will be abandoned, the praises will cease, and these branches will be trampled to dust. The cross will still come.

Jesus knew the exact time these events has to happen. On Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem at exactly the time that the Passover lambs were chosen. Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem was not a coincidence. On this day, the Jews, during Christ's time, had to choose a lamb to cover their sins. However, Jesus entered Jerusalem as the one Lamb that God sent to die as the sacrifice for the sin of the whole world. Yes Jesus was meant to be the sinless passover lamp, that was slain for the sins of others. We pray:

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the World, have mercy on us!

Yes, Jesus was the lamb that died for our sins. He had paid for our sins so that we could be saved. What a sacrifice.

"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

In our church, the used palm leaves will be collected and burned on Christmas Day morning and become part of the fire pit symbolizing the fire shepherds used when the angels came and announced that a savior is born in Bethlehem. In many churches, including the Catholic Church, the remains of Palm Sunday palm leaves literally become the ashes of Ash Wednesday. The palms are burned and the ashes collected. Then on Ash Wednesday the following year, the ashes are used to mark foreheads of the devotees with the sign of the cross. This is a reminder of our humanity. We came from soil or dust. And we will go back to ash or dust. The ash Wednesday marks the beginning of another journey toward the mysterious gift of the cross. The cycle continues.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World


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