“Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord – the King of Israel!” (John 12:13)

Is he or isn’t he a king?  This has been the central debate our Gospel author has centered his story around in the lead up to Jesus’ ultimate crucifixion and death.  In John’s gospel, Jesus never declares himself to be a king but all the evidence points to this “truth” that Pilate wants to understand.  Seemingly, every other character in this story is eager to proclaim Jesus a king, even his detractors.

This Sunday we will backtrack in the story to hear the narration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  We call it “Palm” Sunday because of John’s description of this scene.  While this is one of the few stories shared amongst all four Gospel authors, only John offers the specific detail that palms are being waved.  Matthew copies Mark’s description of “leafy branches” spread on the ground and Luke makes no mention of foliage of any sort.  But ask any Christian to describe this scene, I suspect they would invoke John’s description of waving palms.

Compare Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:29-40, and John 12:12-19.

This palm-specific detail appears to be one more clue to the “truth” being witnessed, in this case by the crowds eager to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem.  The scholars and historians tell us that palm branches were an honorific symbol for many ancient cultures and Judaism in particular.  Representing victory and triumph for Jews, the date palm was the primary symbol for Judea in the time of Jesus, even found on imperial coinage.  John’s detail that the crowd was specifically waving palms only serves to heighten Jesus’ triumph as the conquering hero of God’s people.  And further reason for the existing power structures in both religious and political realms to fear his presence.

For us who have grown weary of unrelenting forces of the status quo, a new king has come.  In reprieve of the burdens of this day we can take a moment to rejoice – sharing in the shouts of “Hosanna!”  But it is this king that, ultimately, the world could not accept.  I invite you to take some time in the days ahead to consider what was so hard for the powerful to tolerate and why it was so easy for so many to put away their palms and look away.  Consider the ways our own shouts of Hosanna have given way to cries for crucifixion.  This is the confession we make and the forgiveness we will seek as we come closer to the cross in the Holy Week now before us.

May God’s peace come to you this day. -Pastor Peter

Let us pray…  Your arrival gives us joy.  Give us the courage to face the truth of what has become of your world and the confidence that you will make us new once more.  There is more darkness ahead.  May we trust in the promise of the light to come.  Amen.