"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
I hope you are enjoying the burst of spring we have had this week. It feels like the trees and flowers finally figured out that winter is over (at least here in Pittsburgh, though maybe not in the Great Plains!) It finally feels more like it is time for Easter.
As we prepare to celebrate Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter, I always think about the two side-by-side hills known as the Mount of Olives and Mt. Zion, on the top of which is the Temple Mount. The two are very close together with the Kidron Valley in between. Imagine standing on Mt. Washington and seeing another equal mountain in the place of downtown. Jesus had that kind of view of Jerusalem as he rode on his donkey's colt down the Mount of Olives and back up the other side toward the temple.
The two mountains and the valley between are something of a metaphor for Holy Week. It would be lovely if we could just go from the joyful shouts of Palm Sunday to the celebration of Easter. But as with Jesus' path, we can only go from one mountaintop to the other by traveling through a dark valley. And only with that valley can we appreciate the glories of the two mountains.
Palm Sunday is the living enactment of "Thy Kingdom Come." It is a human event at one point in time that declares a supernatural event of eternal value. Easter is even more - it is a supernatural event at one point in human history that reverses the power of both sin and death.
But celebrating Palm Sunday and Easter without Good Friday makes us forget the incredible sacrifice and cost Jesus paid to win the victory of Easter. Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes this as "cheap grace... preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance... grace without the cross." Instead, we need to pursue costly grace. He writes,
"It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God."
As we stand on the hilltop of the Mount of Olives and look to the triumph of Easter Sunday, let us not forget the heavy price paid for our sins in the valley of Holy Week. The victory cost a price that we ourselves could never pay. And through the blood of Jesus we are offered a treasure beyond imagining.
PS - Many thanks to all of you who helped make my Installation Service a joyful celebration! Thank you for welcoming my family and friends, and thanks especially to the Youth Group who completely stole the show!