Sunday 28 March
Palm Sunday Matthew 21:1-11
It’s Palm Sunday, but not much is normal in the world right now. But we are back in Church – Hosanna – which means Praise to our Saviour. This year there is no palm procession between churches or in this building. We’re not waving our palm branches and the children aren’t having their usual sword fights with theirs.
We’re not even yet permitted to sing in church, though this week 27 clergy won their case that the government shutting down of places of worship had acted beyond their powers and therefore unlawfully. The government regulations disproportionately interfered with the freedom of religion secured in the European Convention on Human Rights as well as those in Scot’s Law.
Yet this Palm Sunday will be unlike any other, as indeed Holy Week will be different too. We can’t wash feet; we can’t share the same communion cup. And we won’t have any close interactions with one another in this place.
The truth is that 1st Holy week never happened the way we commemorate it in the church anyhow. The true sense of Holy week is always supposed to happen in our lives. And this year especially that is important to remember and make use of.
My hope is that this pandemic can become intertwined with our Holy Week and be a time from which new life arises.
This year the gifts: grace, love, and power through Holy Week and Easter come to us, not in spite of the pandemic, but through it. And it starts today.
So what is Palm Sunday without palms and a procession? Of course it’s still Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is not about the palms and the procession. It never was. It has always been about Jesus entering Jerusalem. And today we’re all in our Jerusalem – which is for us the church where we encounter Jesus.
In verse 10 we read:
“When [Jesus] entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil.”
Turmoil, is in the news and in our hearts – we have been kept away from family and friends, and what we used to consider as normal life. It’s not just us either - our world is in turmoil.
I have felt much more turmoil in my life over this past year than at any other time, and it’s likely the same for you and your loved ones.
Yet, today we’re all in our Jerusalem either here in church or on zoom.
As Matthew says, “The whole city was in turmoil asking, “Who is this?” “The crowds were asking, ‘This is the prophet Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee.’” Yes it is. But I think there is more that needs saying.
And I could go on and on – for God’s word is true and His prophesies are always fulfilled. And despite the horrors of Easter, the necessary price was paid to conquer sin and death for all of us who submit to our LORD Jesus Christ.
This visit to Jerusalem was meticulously planned. The colt had been organised to send the real message – for only a king would ride in to Jerusalem with a crowd cheering in this fashion.
And this colt or foal of a donkey fulfilled Zechariah’s prophesy written over 500 years before this event took place.
Verses 5 and 6 tell us what we need to do as Jesus’ disciples – to do “as Jesus has instructed”
And Praise and worship followed with shouts and no doubt in prayer and song too.
Hosanna literally means we praise the one who is our Saviour and the words from Psalm 118:25, 26 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” is a declaration that Jesus the King is the long-awaited Messiah.
So, what does all of this mean for us in 2021, in Dunbar or wherever we are? Well we need to take a long hard look at ourselves and our Saviour. What is happening within each of us through this turmoil we are experiencing?
If you are in pain or struggling with things, have a look along with us at how our Saviour endured pain and struggled with the events of Holy Week.
Why not phone or meet someone you care about and trust and agree to listen to, and pray for one another? Why not share God’s promises with others too – like the ones I read earlier.
Have a think about the turmoil others are facing too. Some are lonely and cut off. Others are finding their education different from what they expected and have been cut off from friends and many activities.
In my update two weeks ago, I asked you all to let me know if you prayed that the eyes of your heart would be enlightened by your Saviour. Only one person responded. Now it might be that others prayed but did not want to admit it publically, but unless we do what our Saviour instructs us, we will truly miss out and yet another Holy week will pass with familiar or unfamiliar ideas and explanations from Holy Scripture – and we may be very little affected by it all.
What Jesus did do for each of us, was to endure injustice, face horrendous suffering and being cut off from His Father. I hope we all think He deserves our best effort, our best praise, our best offerings, our best service and our full commitment to visit the Cross and meet Him there – with His piercing eye radiating love that we could never imagine until we experience it.
There surely must be some people in the crowd of our lives who too may enquire what’s all this about just like those in the crowd in that first Palm Sunday. Will we tell them?
So then as we and Jesus enter the turmoil of Jerusalem, He is the “one who comes in the name of the Lord” – this is the one who will rise to new life on the third day and He wants to know if each of us want to rise and be with Him for all eternity – in fulfilment of the Gospel He preached and left with us to make our own decision. May this Holy Week be a truly rich blessing to you and your loved ones.