The Rev'd Carlos de la Torre
Christ Church, New Haven, Conn.
March 25, 2018
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In our first reading from Saint Mark’s Gospel, Jesus arrives to Jerusalem for the first time and he is greeted with people spreading their cloaks on the road and spreading leafy branches.
Shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Truly a grand entrance for someone’s first visit.
So far in Saint Mark’s Gospel, Jerusalem is only mentioned as the place where some of the curious have been attracted and from where hostile scribes have questioned Jesus. Yes, Jerusalem was at the center of the Jewish political and religious identity, but up to this point in Saint Mark’s Gospel, Jerusalem has not played a pivotal role in the life and ministry of Jesus.
But this will quickly change. Almost immediately after Jesus’ grand entrance into Jerusalem, the centrality and importance of Jerusalem in the life of Jesus becomes a focal point. And while Jerusalem might have played a passive role up to this point, Jesus knows to well the shift that’s about to take place.
While on the road to Jerusalem, just a few verses prior the account of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, we’re told that Jesus took the Twelve aside and said to them “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, the Son of Man will be handed over to chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
Jerusalem which has served as the epicenter of Jewish life, will now serve as the final destination of “The Way,” that is the way of the Cross, the path Jesus has been on since his baptism in the Jordan River. See, in Saint Mark’s Gospel, there are no nativity stories or infancy narratives, there is not much detail or commentary on the actions of Jesus or extended thoughts or explanations from Saint Mark. Rather, all that takes place is to point us to the cross.
While the cross and resurrection is the ultimate destination, there seems to be a sudden and rapid change of events in Saint Mark’s Gospel. This quick change may be disorientating and even a bit daunting. After all, in what seems like a matter of moments the crowds go from shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” to “ Crucify him!”
In today’s liturgy, we personally experience this sudden change of events. We begun today’s liturgy recalling Jesus’ glorious entrance into Jerusalem, and not much long after, we turn our attention to his capture, trial, passion, and murder.
The rapid shift in today’s liturgy from Jesus’ glorious entrance into Jerusalem to his passion reminds us of how quickly things turn in Jesus’ own life. First proclaimed as the blessed one and then as the king of Jews, Jesus does not rebel against the forces that seek to destroy him put exposes their corruption and malice. As Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians states, Jesus “became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.”
Jesus sought not to prove himself to officials but to put on stage human sin and death, and the evil grip they have on humanity. And just as immediately as our attention shifts from a glorious entrance into Jerusalem, to our Lord’s passion and death, it will shift to the third day. Through his resurrection, Jesus defeats the very things that seek to consume us, inviting us to follow not only in the way of the cross but in the way of the resurrection.
Here we are, beginning this journey, waving our palms. And just like those crowds, one moment shouting hosanna and in the next crucify him. In the week to come, we will continue to walk in the way of Jesus by enacting our Lord’s footwashing and the ancient Christian practice of venerating the wood of the cross. And ultimately experiencing the empty tomb.
And why do we do this? Why are we here waving palms and continuing to participate in the rituals of Holy Week?
The reason why we do this is to put ourselves in the midst of our Lord’s passion. Not merely as bystanders or observers but as participants in the passion. It is to help us experience the passion alongside Jesus, his disciples, and the crowds. It is to help us understand, as much as we possibly can, the deep love and faithfulness God has for us.
Finally is to make us experience not only our Lord’s suffering but his triumph which is to become our own victory. His passion becomes our passion, his resurrection becomes our resurrection.
So let us prepare ourselves for the journey ahead of us. Let us be present here in this place, seeking to come to full unity with God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.