"See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Matthew 21:5)
Sunday is a day of great joy because Jesus enters Jerusalem, and the people of the city are so excited that they welcome and greet Jesus by shouting “Hosanna,” “Hooray” and by waving Palm branches. Passion Sunday is not a time of joy because in five days Jesus will be arrested, tortured, and killed, buried in the tomb. We start with Palms and the joy with bright and upbeat music, and then turn our heads towards the Passion.
“Hosanna to the One who comes in the name of the Lord.” Shouts of hope and courage. Cries of “Hosanna” turn to shouts of a very different kind: “Crucify him!” Palm Sunday asks us to join in the joy of life and at the same time we are invited to join in Christ’s passion, glory-less and pain-full. Palm and Passion Sunday, a bittersweet Sunday, celebrates Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem amidst hosannas, as the parade leads straight to the Lord Jesus’ suffering and death on Calvary.
Which one do we want? Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday? A joyous service? Or a more somber service? Two forces are in line: the Pax Romana or the Pax Christi? Strong war horses of Caesar or a small donkey of Jesus?
Jesus knew about their betrayal and still called them friends, as he washed their feet and fed them on Holy Thursday Night. Palm Sunday makes me feel uncomfortable because I do not want to suffer. Palm Sunday makes me feel uncomfortable because I want Jesus to become like an emperor, Caesar. Palm Sunday’s Hosanna makes me uncomfortable because this suffering servant has let me down, and it’s becoming much too scary and dangerous to follow him. Palm Sunday makes me uncomfortable because I have to walk with Jesus all the way to the cross. I am uncomfortable that in the end I will shout “Crucify him!” because Jesus does not support my views, my opinions, and my preferences. We all know that after the parade ends, nobody can claim Jesus as their own personal Messiah.
God will never be God on our terms. God will never be the answer to our own, self-defined questions. Palms turn to passion and Palm branches turn to ashes on our heads. Glorify God during Palm Sunday and fully trust in God during Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday is a reminder to us that Christ came, not to fulfill our hopes but God’s will for humanity.