The palm branches are still waving as Jesus rides over the last in a long line of coats strewn in the road. The path is leveling out from its downhill plunge and a scenic bend is coming into view. From just ahead all of Jerusalem can be seen. The men and women surrounding Jesus are excited about the days to come. It's Passover season and they are following their Lord into the Holy City. Jesus pauses at the curve in the road and looks out over the city and begins to weep.
At this pregnant moment all the monumental events of the coming week are just potential. The glorious moments of Jesus teaching in the temple, the Passover supper in the upper room, the darkness growing in Judas' heart, and the final plot to take Jesus' life. These events have yet to be fulfilled. Still Jesus knows the way of humans and clearly sees the divine necessity of which he is a part.
He will take just a moment to reflect and mourn over Jerusalem for what will not be. Then he will finish the journey around the bend and enter the week we call, ‘holy’.
We sit at the edge of the dramatic week from a distance of two millennia. Our worship returns us to the day of triumphal entry. We sing ‘Hosanna’ and wave strips of palm. We smile at Jesus’ commanding presence when he silences the Pharisees’ objection with a few words about shouting stones. It is a beautiful day for our Lord, the King, the one who brings God’s kingdom to earth.
Next Sunday you will return to an even bigger celebration. There is no greater Sunday in the Christian year than Easter. We rejoice at the door of the empty tomb. We run with the women to tell the GOOD NEWS to the rest of the disciples that he is risen. But today, we aren’t there yet. There is still a curve ahead in the road and we have a choice to make.
We can leave this Sunday's parade and come back to next Sunday’s breakfast to celebrate Christ’s resurrection without much thought for the week in between. OR
We can spend time with the details of the week, reading the five final chapters of Luke’s gospel and remembering how the plot against Jesus’ unfolds. For the events of this week are at the heart of our faith. We should not take them lightly nor rush through them in our hurry to celebrate the resurrection that will come.
Don’t get me wrong. I am an Easter preacher, You are Easter people. It is the resurrection that fills us with the assurance of God’s promise for all humanity and for the close of our days. I don’t worship a Jesus who still hangs on the cross. Nor do I take lightly the example he left us. I want to remember the whole story because it informs the choices we make in life.
All during this week Jesus makes choices. He teaches openly in the temple, and condemns religion that protects status while ignoring need.
He warns of the times to come as his vision of the future becomes increasingly clear.
He gathers his closest disciples together for a final tangible teaching on what it means to be a servant, wrapped in a towel. And he takes bread and wine to give us the symbols of his new life.
Jesus doesn’t turn away from the consequences of his actions. He prays and prays hard that the time of trial won’t come but when it does, he remains faithful. He does not resort to violence, he doesn’t command his people in worldly ways, and he never backs down from the message he came to bring. And it gets him killed.
We have the choice to enter into the full story this week and refresh our understanding of the Jesus way. We surely can set aside enough time over 7 days to read and walk the streets of Jerusalem with Jesus again. We can even ascend the hill of Golgotha and stand for a moment at the foot of the cross. Then, when we have journeyed again with Jesus, we will be ready to celebrate his resurrection with understanding and renewed commitment.