The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

Homily for March 24, 2024

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

Today we recall the greatest act of love in the history of the world: Jesus’ willingness to be broken-down and poured-out as a sacrifice for the whole world so that all people may have life eternal with Him in God’s heavenly kingdom.

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and His crucifixion are events that must be understood within the larger framework of Jesus’ saving work. Jesus’ saving work goes beyond the grave and His resurrection and into His Ascension into heaven where He is seated at God’s right hand. Jesus’ saving work continues still. We believe that Christ will return; therefore, Christ’s redemptive work of love continues to unfold even through today. We stand, in the here and now, in the middle of a living epic story of God’s relationship with humankind that at its heart is the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. So, when we read through the events that took place in last days of Jesus’ life on earth, we must always remember that the journey continues until He comes again.

When Jesus entered the gates of Jerusalem that day, it was a foreshadowing of His Ascension – His triumphal entry into His Heavenly reign and beyond.

At that time, Jerusalem was the location of the Holy Temple – that place where God and humankind came together. So, it was only fitting that Jesus’ last days on earth would take Him to that place because Jesus was and is that temple – that place where God and humanity come together for, He was and is fully human and fully divine.

During that time in history, palm branches were often used to symbolize national triumph and victory. So, the people used them that day as a way to express their joy and excitement that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, would be the king they had hoped for, the one would restore them as God’s chosen nation. What they did not know that day, however, was exactly how He go about to accomplish such a restoration.

In all that Jesus accomplishes in His defeat of evil and death, He does so with love and peace – not with force or any army. Jesus does not come riding on a war horse but on a young donkey. Donkey colts in Scripture often represent peace, meekness and humility. We recall from the Christmas story how, before Jesus’ earthly life begins, Mary is carrying Him as she rides on a donkey on their way to Bethlehem. And now, as Jesus comes to the close of His earthly life, He leaves this world in the same manner in which He came, in peace and humility.

Jesus gave Himself in perfect obedience to the Father. Jesus poured Himself out for us because to be the Son of God – and God is Love – there really could be no other way. His was the way of Love; a way we are all called to follow – in perfect obedience to His will for us.

When we read the Passion narrative, it is tempting to hear only the voices of the people crying out that day; however, if we listen more closely, we hear the words that were not spoken but instead were being lived-out. In Jesus’ act of submission and obedience, we hear a sound that resonates in our very soul: We hear Jesus saying to each and every one of us, “I love you! I love you this much … and more!”

The following is a beautiful reflection by Fleming Rutledge on Holy Week that I leave with you:

“…This week, while the world goes about its business, the meaning of existence is revealed to those who have eyes to see. Today, in the reading of the Passion, Thursday as Jesus eats His Last Supper and goes forth to be betrayed, Friday noon as He hangs exposed and naked on the Cross and pours out His life…God is acting.

In the events of this week, the cries of those who suffer have been heard by the only One who could, the only One who can, the only One who will deliver on His promise that there will be a happy morning. But it only comes – it only comes – by means of His death.

Let us follow Him then to the foot of His Cross. Let us come together in mind and heart to behold our Lord as He gives Himself up for the sake of the whole world. Let us come in heart and soul and mind, in faith and in trust, to confess that ‘truly this man is the Son of God.”

Amen

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    St. Philip's Episcopal Church

    6457 Quantico Road
    Quantico, MD 21856

    Mailing Address
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    Quantico, MD 21856

    St. Philip's is a proud member of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton