Grace: To experience a complete conversion of heart that will allow me to be with Jesus on his way to the Cross.
Text for Prayer: Luke 19: 41-44
All glory, praise, and honor
To you, Redeemer, King!
To whom the lips of children
Made glad hossanas ring.
You are the King of Israel,
And David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s Name comest,
The King and Blessed One…
The above hymn that will be played in many Churches on Palm Sunday helps set the tone as the Church enters into Holy Week and reminds us of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It is not difficult to picture Jesus, his fame having spread throughout Judea, riding into the city on a donkey, greeted by the crowds who cry out “Hossana!” as they wave palm branches in their hands.
But the same hymn and the image of the scene cannot help but raise a few questions in our minds. What type of king enters a city riding on a donkey? Why are people so eager to greet Him, especially when a few days later they are no longer crying out “Hossana!” but rather “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” How and why do they have such a quick change of heart?
By the time that Jesus rides into Jerusalem He has already established that He wishes to be a different type of king, one who serves others and is not served. The fact that He would choose to arrive in a Jerusalem on a donkey speaks to that desire of His, and His desire for us is that we follow His example.
The change of heart experienced by the people of Jerusalem is a more complex question to answer. Luke’s account of the entry into Jerusalem, however, can perhaps help us to gain some insight. Luke mentions that Jesus wept over the city as he approached it and lamented “If you only knew what lay before you…” (Luke 19:42) Luke, catering to his audience, might be referencing the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70 when the city was destroyed by the Romans. But could it not be, rather, that Luke is reminding us that sometimes we may want to recognize God in places where he cannot truly be found? Could it be that we want to make God into something He cannot be, and rather than seeing Him as He is, we only see Him as we want to see Him?
The people of Jerusalem may have wanted a king, and in Jesus, they weren’t getting the king they expected. But we, too, can sometimes place ridiculous expectations on God. We can think that God exists merely to answer our prayers or make us feel good about ourselves. When our prayers aren’t answered in a way that we prefer or if the good feelings disappear, we turn away. Similar to the change of heart experienced by the people of Jerusalem our cries of “Hossanna!” quickly turn to “Crucify Him!” We can think that God is merely out to get us and judge us or that he places too many rules and regulations on our lives that we can’t keep. We can be tempted to want to have Easter Sunday without Good Friday.
Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week is a call to conversion. It is a call to put aside all of those preconceived notions of what God should be like and simply allow ourselves to be with God, with his Son, Jesus, to follow Him “on the way” that Luke mentions throughout his Gospel and stand beneath the Cross. Only if we make this journey can we fully enjoy Easter Sunday.
Questions: Do I place expectations on God that He cannot fulfill? Do I have any preconceived notions of what God should be like for me and for others? Are these expectations compatible with who it is that Jesus says He is and how He calls us to follow Him? Can I place these expectations aside and allow myself to be with Jesus on his journey to the Cross and allow myself to be with Him at the foot of the Cross?