It’s been called “seven days that changed the world.” For the journey that began on the Mount of Olives on Palm Sunday and ended at the Empty Tomb across town one week later was indeed the most significant passage in human history. It’s no wonder that pilgrims have thus tried for centuries to retrace the footsteps of Jesus, moving through that fabled week of Passover just as Jesus Himself long ago did.
Before the Master ever stepped off of the Mount of Olives to make His way down (and then back up) into the holy city, however, Luke 9.51 tells us that Jesus rather resolutely “set his face for Jerusalem”– the same face, we might note, that had earlier glowed at the Transfiguration, the same one that He later fell upon to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the same one that the soldiers spat upon and struck during the arrest that followed. For when Jesus set out for Jerusalem that final time, He understood plainly that it was tantamount to signing His own death warrant.
Those who knew Him best intuitively knew that as well. One of them, Thomas–who was clearly not the morale officer of the little band–even somewhat bravely, if gloomily, announced, “Let us also go so that we may die with Him.” (There’s a winsome evangelism slogan for you.)
And yet when that first Palm Sunday unfolded those same disciples forgot all about the dangers and found themselves caught up once again in a dream, waving their palm branches wildly and crying out in a loud voice, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19.38)
The Pharisees, of course, tried to shush them, in part out of their fear of the Romans; in part, no doubt, out of sheer envy at the popularity which Jesus enjoyed. But the Master simply responded that if those who followed Him were silenced that the very stones themselves would then have to cry out. For even if the disciples, to say nothing of the religious establishment, still didn’t really understand what the kingship of Jesus was actually all about, He was yet worthy to be praised.
And so He is today. For the last book of the Bible reminds us that in the age to come there will be another great multitude, this one composed of people from all tribes and tongues, clothed in white robes with palm branches once again in their hands, crying out “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7.9,10)
Today is a time for remembering that reality, even if it has not yet been made fully real to you and me. So pick up a palm branch and wave it, no matter how old you are. Sing a little louder in church than you usually do. Say the creed as if you actually believed it. For even if your understanding of what it all means is as flawed as that of the disciples was, Jesus truly deserves our adoration on this Palm Sunday,
In fact, at the risk of waking up someone in the pew beside you, you may even want to shout a little in church this morning.
After all, if you don’t the rocks may just have to do it for you.
(Log on each day of this Holy Week for a special word about the Final Footsteps of Jesus.)