Grace Presbyterian Church
March 20, 2016, Palm Sunday C
Luke 19:28-40, 23:1-56
Jesus had to know what he was getting into. He just had to.
And I don’t think knowing what he was getting into was contingent on being the Son of God. Anyone who got so crosswise of the authorities of that time and place – be it the Temple authorities or the Roman authorities – had to know punishment was going to come, and it was going to be swift and harsh. It always did.
As if it wasn’t clear, Mary had offered up the pungent reminder found in last week’s gospel reading; in anointing Jesus’s feet she was enacting a procedure typically part of a burial ritual. The aroma of the ointment might still have been clinging to Jesus’s feet just a little, even after more miles of hard dusty road and – at this moment – the smells of donkey and crowds and shed garments strewn across the road.
Nonetheless Jesus had made his way from Bethany, home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus, to Jerusalem. He had kept telling parables and teaching, getting challenged by religious authorities, thronged by crowds. Luke tells us about the visit to Jericho and the encounter with Zacchaeus, the vertically challenged tax collector who ended up planning to give away a lot of his possibly ill-gotten gain. He tells what used to be called the “parable of the talents” to dissuade his followers from expecting the imminent, immediate appearance of the kingdom of God. And then this “triumphal” entry, one in which all the symbols were wrong for a real triumph. A donkey was a poor substitute for a strong war horse, after all.
Still, the throng paraded onward.
Still, for now at least, the cheering and chanting.
How soon that would change.
He would be barely into Jerusalem, as Luke tells it, before he entered the Temple and started driving out the moneychangers and freaking out and flipping tables. He continued to teach, even as the religious authorities kept trying to tear him down. He thwarted them again and again with parables about wicked tenants and unimpeachable answers to trick questions. He brought out some of his hardest teachings for these last days – teachings about end times, destruction of the sacred places, imprecations to watch. He shared a last meal with his disciples, even as the authorities plotted to kill him. And at the last he was arrested, tried, and executed, as disciples and friends ran away or denied him outright.
And this is the walk. This, yes, this is the walk that Jesus calls us to walk.
At the risk of seeming to undercut the choir, that particular song does have it backwards in a way. We want Jesus to walk with us? Funny, Jesus calls us to walk with him.
Yes, this same walk that ended up in Jesus’s crucifixion, the inevitable culmination of a walk that without fail went out of the way to bring good news to society’s most marginalized, most despised, most least people. It’s the kind of walk that doesn’t bring about popularity among the elites or the wealthy, and is likely to get us sucker-punched or worse when we suggest that love is to be more desired than hate. If we do it right we may get harassed or demeaned or harmed or beaten or killed or, maybe worst of all, ignored.
And this is the walk that Jesus calls us to walk with him.
[sung]: Jesus calls us to walk with him/Jesus calls us to walk with him/All along this pilgrim journey/Jesus calls us to walk with him.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Hymns (PH ’90):
All Glory, Laud, and Honor (88)
My Song Is Love Unknown (76)
O Lamb of God Most Holy (82)
Ah, Holy Jesus (93)
Were You There (102)
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded (98)