Getting Whip Lash on Palm Sunday

John 12:12-17 and John 19:16b-22   April 13, 2014

The last few weeks we’ve been with Jesus as he stood trial in Pilate’s court.  Jesus was condemned with help from the religious professionals and the angry mob.  Now, this week, we’ve stepped back in the story a bit to when Jesus first enters Jerusalem.  It’s like a flashback today…Jesus remembering the events of the past week and how quickly things can change.

The hosannas turn to crucify him awfully quick.  That joyful parade turns into an angry mob, thirsty for blood.

triumphal-entry-palm-branches_1396518154Those palms you’ve got?  Those were the equivalent of waving the flag back in the 1st century.  These palms mean victory! These palms mean, we won!  And what the people shouted to Jesus – “Hosanna!”  Well, that means save us.  Save us, Jesus! Save us, we yell, waving palm branches, certain of how this victory will go. This great triumph.

Donkey_1_arp_750pxFor certainly Jesus is a powerful king.  He’s riding a donkey which was a sure sign.  Now let’s clear this up a bit, because when we hear that, we think he was being humble and that a donkey is not a kingly sort of ride.  But, in fact, horses were saved for battle, carrying soldiers in for the fight. Donkeys were set apart for the police escort, for the victory lap. The presidential motorcade.

So we wave our palm branches and shout save us as we watch the king ride in on the donkey – all signs that victory is ours! Jesus will triumph! All the signs were there.

But the crowd turns.  A trial is held.  The people vote for a bandit to be released and yell for Jesus to be crucified, King of the Jews.  Whatever those signs were, they are trampled under foot, forgotten, in the plot to kill Jesus.  Those signs now just a memory, a flashback.

sketchy-arrows-set-vector-9924997You’ve all been given a sign today.  It’s not particularly religious.  It’s an arrow.  And if you’ve got a 9th grader near you, they know what’s coming next.  They can even help you, should you need it.

A  few weeks ago, I had the 9th graders draw a ladder and list all the things we earn in our lives. Friends, popularity, good grades, trophies, letters, phones, cars. What do you work for in your life?  A better salary; a better credit rating; tickets; approval? We are conditioned to work for what it is we think we deserve. It’s how life works.

The cross changes all of that. God’s action through the cross flies in the face of all of those expectations, all those ways we think we gotta earn God’s love, work for our salvation, improve our lives so God will love us more or at all.

Because the cross tells us loud and clear what ladders are worth.  That’s when I had the 9th graders cut an arrow out of their ladder.  And I asked them, what direction does God move in this story of human salvation?

arrow-downThe cross tells us that God comes to us!  God comes down, we don’t climb up to God.

Let me say that again.

The cross tells us that God comes to us!  God comes down, we don’t climb up to God.

God comes to us and meets us wherever we are. In whatever shape we’re in. In our joy, in our despair. 





cross-shadowThis is the week we end up at the foot of the cross, in its dark and long shadow.  This is our story, folks.  This is why we gather. It’s why we are sent out.  This is it. We are people of the cross.

God makes the boldest, most loving move and comes to us on the cross. Our hope comes from a God who refuses to save himself, but instead saves us. Yes, you. No matter what you’ve done. No matter what you haven’t done. You haven’t earned it.  You just get it.

Hosanna. Hosanna.  Hosanna.

Save us. Save us. Save us.