my miscellany

Palm Sunday, 2023 — 2 Apr 23

Palm Sunday, 2023

Coecke van Aelst, Pieter, 1502-1550. Entry into Jerusalem, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56865 [retrieved April 2, 2023]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Entry_of_Christ_into_Jerusalem_by_Pieter_Coecke_van_Aelst_Bonnefantenmuseum_1246.jpg.

Saint Matthew 21:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Saint Matthew 26:14–27:66
RCL Year A, Palm Sunday

As many as three things can be true at the same time. And each of the three can be hard to accept. The Passion of Our Lord, just proclaimed, leaves us with those three things and how hard they are to accept.

First, the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!,”[1] at Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem, thaw into the shouts of “Let him be crucified!”[2] The apparent triumph melts into the apparent defeat. What appears to be victory cascades into defeat. As the Psalmist wrote, just “as wax melts at the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God” (Psalm 68:2). Wax indeed melts at the fire. Triumph melts into crucifixion.

But the wicked do not perish at the presence of God. This is the second hard-to-accept thing about the Passion of Our Lord. The presence of God in Jesus triggers the wicked to gain the upper hand. The presence of God in Jesus’ Passion brings out the worst humanity has to offer. Jealousy, envy, bribery, injustice, the preference of a criminal to an innocent man, bloodthirstiness, cowardice, mockery, and, finally, murder—all eventuate following Jesus’ triumphal entry. This is very hard to understand and even harder to accept.

The third hard-to-accept thing about the Passion of Our Lord is what God makes of the worst that humanity has to offer. God takes all those things, from jealousy down the full incriminating list to murder, and brings about our salvation. The worst we have, the worst we are, the worst we can do, in the hands of a loving and merciful Creator, become the ingredients of our redemption and salvation.

God wills it and makes it so. We sinned at our beginning, and we sin at the foot of the cross. But God does not permit our sin to be the last word. God offers a bitter chalice to Jesus who prays in agony about whether to drink it, our sin going on all the while. And drink of it he does.

He accepts the entire catalog of the offscourings of humanity and redeems every one of them and every one of us. He puts each one of us within the reach of his loving arms. Despite all the horrible things we have done and can do, we remain still within the range of his love. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He redeems us and continues to give us the choice to love him in return.

In the hands of a loving and merciful Creator even a perfect storm resolves into perfect calm, perfect justice, and perfect love. How could any one of us continue to refuse to return his love?

[1] Saint Matthew 21:9.

[2] Saint Matthew 27: 22 and 23.

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