Read Matthew 21:1-11
Think about all of the large, celebratory gatherings that will not happen this spring.
What if Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem happened now, when many of us must shelter in place, and groups of 10 or more are banned? No one would line the roads waving palms or throwing their coats on the road. Jesus plus his disciples makes for a group of 13, three too many for that upper room Passover meal. How would they have held the Last Supper under these circumstances?
While I am unsure how these events would have been altered, I am certain Jesus would still enter Jerusalem and the events of Holy Week would still take place.
We will not gather this Sunday and process in the sanctuary waving palms. Little children will not sing Hosanna. And yet, Jesus will still enter Jerusalem. Even if crowds do not line the highway and shout, even if only two or three can gather at home, even if we worship from our home instead of in our normal pews, Jesus makes it to Jerusalem.
Our Palm Sunday celebrations will no doubt be quieter, simpler, less demonstrative than we would have imagined just weeks ago, but they will not be stopped. The Son of God enters our living rooms no less than he walked the streets of Jerusalem, and we can still cry out to him, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Many of us cannot help but wonder what this Savior who rides humbly on a donkey can do to help our stirred-up world. Everyone yearns to know when things will return to some semblance of normal. This Palm and Passion Sunday fills with our questions even as we strain to shout our affirmations.
Even the disciples, obedient and dutiful in following Jesus’ directions, couldn’t be fully prepared for the suffering soon to come. In all of their complicated humanity, they did the best they could in that moment and so, too, do we. Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem and the cross knowing all too well our shortcomings and failures. Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem and the cross because of our shortcomings and failures. Jesus knows, even if we do not, our need of him.
As we grieve what is lost this year — the waving palms, the soaring swell of the organ, the joy of singing with one another in the sanctuary, the touch of handshakes and hugs — we can be sure Jesus meets us where we are, no matter how we are. Jesus will not stop on the outskirts of Jerusalem or on the fringes of our lives. He enters fully into the city knowing what’s to come. He enters fully into our lives, knowing our doubts, failings, denials, betrayals, misunderstandings and disappointments. He comes humbly toward us, accepting whatever we offer, a palm branch, exuberant praise or mumbled hope, knowing that soon he will go to the cross for our sake.
Nothing can stop Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Nothing can stop the coming of the Son of God. Nothing can prevent Jesus from being present in the midst of all that shakes us and stirs us and causes us to tremble. The crowds will disappear. Even Jesus’ closest friends will abandon him. All will seem lost and dead and beyond redemption, but only for a while, for three days when time will seem to stand still. Then God will upend all our expectations yet again, because nothing can stop Easter, either.
I’ve been thinking, grieving, all the gatherings that will not, cannot, happen this spring, but this Sunday we can celebrate, quietly and not as we would have hoped to celebrate, but celebrate nonetheless. I will do my best to rejoice and offer what I have to Jesus because he enters fully into the stirred-up city of Jerusalem and our trembling towns and our shaken up lives in order to take on our burdens, forgive our sins, crush evil, defeat death and bring God’s unstoppable new life.
(I am indebted to the Rev. Jill Duffield, editor of Presbyterian Outlook Magazine, for much I have used in this devotion.)”
David Tritenbach is a retired Presbyterian minister.