Entering the Sanctuary on Palm Sunday, everybody was handed a small palm frond. During the Children's Moment, we waved them joyfully as the story of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey was told.
The palm fronds were a symbol of joy, happiness, and celebration - for the crowds waiting for Jesus, as it was for us on this Palm Sunday. Everyone was waiting for "the king" to enter, waving their plams in joyous excitement.
"As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice..." (Luke 19:36,37)
Sometimes actually seeing something "acted out", or hearing it in a version meant for children, makes it so much clearer. Our Children's Moment on Palm Sunday not only had everyone waving palm fronds; but as the story continued to be told, a few people spread blankets in the aisles of the sanctuary.
And, we shouted, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!" just as they did many years ago.
What a beautiful and touching moment; and such a joyful celebration.
I am sure when I was growing up I heard the Palm Sunday stories; but I don't remember it being a major part of the Easter Celebration.
In fact, I don't really remember much about "celebrating" Holy Week at all until I was an adult.
Unfortunately, Easter has become too commercialized, like Christmas and other holidays. We focus on the "buying" - a new outfit, candies and baskets and little gifts; and don't forget the chocolate bunny!
We know that not all of the events of Holy Week are joyful and happy ...
Can you imagine sitting at the table with the other disciples at the Passover meal? Do you have even a little idea of what is to happen to Jesus?
How would you feel if Jesus knelt in front of you and began to wash your feet? Would you, like Simon Peter, try to refuse Him?
As we move through Holy Week, we find Jesus sharing the Passover meal with His disciples, when he says to them,
"I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15).
Jesus knew what was coming and was trying to prepare the disciples.
"Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.' " (Luke 22:19-20)
And during the meal, Jesus did something else:
"Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him" (John 13:5).
Why would Jesus do this? After washing their feet, with resistance from Simon Peter, He returns to the table. And Jesus begins to explain to the disciples, first asking them,
"Do you know what I have done to you?" (John 13:12b).
"So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them" (John 13:14-16).
Jesus is preparing the disciples for what is to come ...
And what is to come is the most horrible of deaths anyone could ever imagine. We don't want to think about it, even now. Sometimes we skip right past the celebration of Palm Sunday to the celebration of Easter Sunday morning.
Yet, what He did for us is part of the Joy and Sorrow and more Sorrow...
And He does it all willingly!
"The King" must carry His own cross to the hill where He is to be crucified; a perfect man, God's only son, who has done absolutely nothing wrong! One who has carried our burdens to the cross and left them so we could have Everlasting Life...
As Jesus hangs on the cross, darkness comes over the whole land until late in the afternoon...
"Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.' Having said this, he breathed his last" (Luke 23:46).
In John's version, he writes,
"When Jesus had received the wine, he said, 'It is finished.' Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit" (John 19:30).
And in those three words, the sorrow of "Good Friday" is apparent:
It is Finished!
But, is it??