GREAT MORNING BELOVED
The Last Week – Palm Sunday
This week and for the next weeks, as we go through the Lenten Season, we will use the book, “The Last Week – What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem” by Marcus Borg & John Dominic Crossan to discuss this last week of our Way-Shower, what it could possibly have meant to Him and what it means to us.
Many, including Charles Fillmore, have called the last week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday the most important week in history. This, because of the profound impact the life of Jesus has made on the world.
I hope you will listen and ponder the thoughts that the message may bring to you.
So, we will look at the days leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus and what they may have meant in that time and what they could mean to us today.
The word lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “sprint. Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is also a time of self-examination and reflection.
Many of us come from traditional churches and the season of Lent was filled with guilt as we choose SOMETHING to ‘give up,’ to sacrifice for the 40 days. What we were ‘supposed to be doing is removing what interferes with our connection to God.
That goes back to what we idolize…coffee, money, sex, chocolate! These idols are representing what we are placing before our God. We may not be idolizing chocolate, but it can make us ponder that thought to see what we ARE placing before Divine Spirit.
And are you aware why the 40 days? Forty days is how long Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by Satan.
What tempts you? Money? Sugar filled treats? Skipping exercise? Maybe skipping Sunday Service?
We start with what we call Palm Sunday. Called so because of the entrance into Jerusalem that Sunday morning by Jesus and the reception he received by the crowds.
They used palms because they were plentiful in the Near East.
Others used materials plentiful in their lands. We, here in Delaware, could very easily use pine tree limbs, or oak, or maple, because they are plentiful here. In fact, in some areas this was called Yew Sunday or Branch Sunday because of the branches available for use.
In many lands in the ancient Near East, it was customary to cover in some way the path of someone thought worthy of the highest honor.
In the Greco-Roman culture of the Roman Empire, which strongly influenced Christian tradition, the palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory.
But, to understand the importance of this, we need to look at what brought us to that Sunday morning.
Jesus’ very presence agitated the established Roman authorities as well as the Jewish leaders. Here was a man who could cast out evil spirits from the afflicted, who dined with a Pharisee without conforming to custom of washing before the meal, Jesus set aside Jewish restrictions on what they could eat, he healed a sick woman on the sabbath and, the final straw, he raised Lazarus from the dead.
Some call that Saturday before Palm Sunday, Lazarus Saturday and look at it as a foreshadow of Jesus’ Resurrection.
Quite the feat for a humble carpenter.
The chief priests and Pharisees were afraid what the actions of Jesus would bring upon them all by the Romans. Here was a man who was claiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He defied tradition almost at every turn. He certainly didn’t let the Jewish leaders intimidate him. If anything, they were intimidated by him.
And so, to save their necks, they conspired to aid his demise.
Yet Jesus knew he had to continue, otherwise the three years of his ministry would all be for naught. As Ernest Wilson states in, “The Week That Was,” “it would mean oblivion of the revelation which was his own particular gift to the world. It would imply a defeat of the principle of love and nonresistance which had characterized his message.”
As I’m reading over this, I am reminded of other leaders promoting love and nonresistance…can you think of any?
So, the course was set.
So, let’s look at the day. Jesus and his followers had traveled to Bethphage from Bethany. They had just come from Mary & Martha’s home where he raised Lazarus from death. Quite the setting.
He sent two of his disciples into Bethany to return with a donkey colt, one that had never been ridden.
Why do you think that is important? If no one had ridden the colt before, it still needed to be trained, donkeys, after all, are known for their stubbornness. So, this, metaphysically shows us that our I AM, Jesus the Christ will over-come the physical senses, the donkey.
Let that sink in…our I AM, our Christ consciousness is here to help us overcome the 5 senses, so we use our Christ consciousness, our Higher Self to lead our every moment.
Also, a donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that it is an animal of peace, unlike the horse which is the animal of war.
Another thought. Jesus followed the prophecy of Zechariah “…lo… your king comes riding on a colt…” Remember, this was a man from the peasant village of Nazareth. His followers were mostly peasants. This was his way of telling the people that he was their king and was still just a lowly man. His message was about the kingdom of God.
At the other side of the city, a different procession entered with all the pomp and circumstance of a royal parade. Pontius Pilate, Roman governor on a white horse, lead a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers from the west proclaiming the power of the Roman empire.
This procession also displayed Roman imperial theology…that is, the emperor was not only the Roman ruler, but also the Son of God. This did not sit well with the Jewish people.
According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem was planned to counter that of Pilate’s display of armored forces. It was a deliberate political statement: Pilate’s procession was all about power and glory, and the violence associated with world rule.
In contrast, Jesus’ procession embodied the alternative – the Kingdom of God.
While Pontius Pilate rode to his palace, Jesus rode to the Temple. A vast difference between the two, ….one material and the other spiritual.
All the difference between the two and as the tension rises through the week, aid in the end, to the death of Jesus and two others.
But we get ahead of ourselves.
Jerusalem became the capital of ancient Israel at the time of David and his son, Solomon. This time was revered to the Jews for its glory and that all 12 tribes were under one king. It was the time that the Jews had always hoped and prayed for. And, of course, the temple was the center of their lives.
Unfortunately, the same behavior from the oppressors of the Jewish people was found in the rulers of Jerusalem. There was political, economic and religious oppression and exploitation. So, the city, the hope of the Jewish people became “the center of injustice and of betrayal of God’s covenant.”
Eventually, the dream of a Jewish city was not to be when, again, they were defeated, this time by the Roman army. Their struggle to be freed from their oppressors, whether Roman or Jewish, continued.
So, we have the contrasting processions that Sunday morning. From the west, the symbol of the Roman empire. Of violence and conquers and domination.
And from the east, Jesus on a donkey, entering amongst the crowds who were shouting praises and waving Palms. This, the symbol of peace & humility, and continuing his message of transformation through the Kingdom of God.
Now we ask ourselves, which procession are we in? Which do we want to be in?
The procession Jesus led ended at the Temple where he heals the blind and lame. The chief priests and scribes reprimanded him, and he answered them, in essence, saying that youth know more about faith than you scribes and priests do.
Jesus was openly declaring to the people that He was their King and the Messiah they had been waiting for.
They welcomed Him out of their desire for a messianic deliverer, someone who would lead them in a revolt against Rome. There were many who, though they did not believe in Christ as Savior, nevertheless hoped that perhaps He would be to them a great temporal deliverer.
These are the ones who hailed Him as King with their many hosannas, recognizing Him as the Son of David who came in the name of the Lord. But when He failed in their expectations, when He refused to lead them in a massive revolt against the Roman occupiers, the crowds quickly turned on Him. Within just a few days, their hosannas would change to cries of “Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:20-21).
And every evening, Jesus and his followers walked the four miles back the Bethany only to travel again in the morning.
This is how the last week started. Jesus continuing to move forward to his destiny, aggravating the Jewish leaders, increasing their fear of losing their position.
What has fear caused you to do? Take that question into meditation….
What person mentioned today do you relate to the most? Jesus, Pilate, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, his disciples, the crowd waving palms and shouting Hosanna?
What tempts you? which procession are you in? Which do we want to be in? What has fear caused you to do?