Palm Sunday, Year C
Text: Luke 19:28-40, Isaiah 50:4-7, Philippians 2:6-11, Luke 22:14-23:56.
When we began this celebration, we acclaimed Jesus as king, with hosannas and palm branches. Things take a darker turn quickly, though. We hear how the very people who praised him for his deeds of power and celebrated his triumphant entry into Jerusalem turn away. Judas betrays him; the apostles fall asleep; Peter denies him; the crowds shout for his death. Thus we enter into this Holy Week of the great mystery and hope of our faith.
Through it all, Jesus Christ is truly King; the Roman governor declares it even while carrying out the sentence. He is, though, a different kind of king. It’s easy to see a king when he does deeds of power, but that isn’t the heart of Christ’s authority. Jesus himself tells us the kind of reign he intends: “The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.”1 He came as one who serves2, humbling himself and being obedient even to the point of death on the cross3. We lose sight of this kind of authority so easily, and ourselves betray our faith, falling asleep and denying Jesus. This isn’t just an abstract thing: we do this whenever we harm, or ignore, or abandon, another person—and we suffer it ourselves when others do likewise to us. Christ’s kingdom is also our kingdom, if we follow his example; it is not a regime of edicts and enforcement, but a realm of compassion and willing service.
Our royal saviour is abandoned by his disciples, but shows us again by his example how to remain true to our principles: he trusts in God, and holds no thought for revenge on us who reject him, living his own commandments to love God and neighbor. From God, he receives the strength to help us, as we too, in difficult times, must trust God, however demanding the ordeal may be. The triumphant procession and the path to Calvary are one for this king who gives everything of himself.
Though we sometimes abandon Jesus and betray his commands, in every moment we can turn back to him and live love where we are. There is always hope, when we turn to God, for we too are meant to be queens and kings. Today, we pray, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,”4 and go forth silently to serve God and each other as signs of God’s unsparing, unquenchable love.
1: Luke 22:26
2: Luke 22:27
3: Philippians 2:8
4: Luke 23:42