“For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all —this was attested at the right time.”1 Timothy 2:5-6 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)
The Triumphant Entry
Each year we celebrate this most magnificent arrival into Jerusalem by Jesus and his disciples. The fanfare they received kicked off one of the world’s greatest struggles over religious and political power known. The intent of Jesus was to ransom himself off so that everyone would be saved. With that in mind, Holy Week starts with Jesus’ fulfilling prophecy through the simple act of taking a ride on a donkey.
12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!”John 12:12-13 – (NRSVCE)
My brothers and sisters, know with all your heart there is but one God, one savior who took up God’s mission to defeat sin. Jesus, a mortal man willingly gave up his life to accomplish that mission. The events of Holy Week attest to his divine inspiration and his ultimate accomplishment of salvation. To that end, we have the benefit of scripture and can discern these many acts of love performed by Jesus during his life. However, during the time of Christ, there was much debate about who he was and how he was able to work the miracles he did. I say this first so that we have the proper context to his controversial entry into Jerusalem and why some felt threatened and others felt jubilee.
For Jesus who knew the full breadth and width of God’s plan was very methodical in how he did things. Case in point, Mark tells us that as Jesus and his disciples rode near to Jerusalem he sent two disciples to fetch a donkey from a village ahead of them. Here are the precise instructions, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone should say to you, “Why are you doing this?”, just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.”
The important fact about this event of fetching the donkey can be found in the Old Testament, ‘Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ – Zechariah 9:9 (NIV)
Lowly on a donkey, not quite the ride you would expect for the son of God is it? Jesus his whole life did not seek wealth, praise for his good deeds, and he never once did anything out of pride. To ride a donkey was not the most honorable thing to do, but Jesus was using this to signal that the Old Testament scripture was now fulfilled. This was not lost on the people who wanted a Messiah to deliver them from their oppression, i.e. Roman oppression. One could also argue that they felt oppressed by the religious authority of the Sanhedrin and by the puppet ruler of Galilee, Herod Antipas.
Mark also tells us that Jesus when the people met him they threw palm branches on the ground before him. Why palm branches? Well in the time of Jesus palm branches were a symbol of victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life, originating in the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean world. So, combined with the donkey and the palm branches the meaning of this symbology further enhances the claim that Jesus is Lord, the Messiah who has come to deliver them, victorious, triumphant, and with eternal life.
This then is further driven home with the people’s own words, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!” Here we go back to the Old Testament to The Book of Psalms (118:25-26) – A Song of Victory, during the time of King David, “Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord.” Traditionally, this was sung to welcome pilgrims such as Jesus who rode into Jerusalem. But the cries of Hosanna! in the Hebrew context of the word (hoshi`ah-na) actually meant “Save!” or “Help!” Not surprisingly, Jesus was there to do both of those things, save them, and help them reach salvation through his blood sacrifice.
Agreed Upon Sacrifice
Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.Philippians 2:8-9 (NRSVCE)
In reflection I say to you my brothers and sisters, Jesus knew his mission and where it would lead him. We celebrate Palm Sunday as the first step to our own salvation through Christ, for without his intercession in our sin none of us would have the opportunity for a life with God. Jesus’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem was full of cultural meaning for both Jesus and the people that was not lost on those in power. He entered as the King of the Jews and the prophesied Messiah.
So my brothers and sister I urge all of you throughout this Holy Week to take a moment and ponder Jesus’s mindset, his love, and obedience to God. To help you do that read all five pages of The Letter of Paul to the Philippians, reflect on Paul’s words which are filled with love and such reverence for Christ and his sacrifice, especially verse 2. Imitate Christ, ‘be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, regards others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.’
LET US PRAY
We pray for all those who died during a mass shooting event this year starting with, Cleveland, River Grove, Chicago, Yazoo City, Memphis, Virginia Beach, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Aliceville, Boulder, Houston, Dallas, Gresham, New Orleans, Stockton, Acworth, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Tampa, and Brooklyn. May their souls find rest and comfort with the Lord our God, forever and ever.
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, Forever and ever. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, a world without end.
Saint Joseph, Pray for us. ~ Sancte Ioseph – ‘ora pro nobis,’
NOW GO SPREAD THE WORD!
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