Weekly Meditation: 27th March 2016
Sixth Sunday in Lent, Palm Sunday
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
When Jesus made arrangements for a colt to be available for him to ride into Jerusalem at the start of his last week on earth, he was planning a demonstration of royal power and dignity that would speak throughout the succeeding centuries (Luke 19:28-34). It remains a mystery that people recognised something in Jesus which they had not seen or responded to before, but the fact remains that as Jesus entered the city, the crowds flocked to greet him, spreading their cloaks, praising God and waving palm branches. They broke spontaneously into words from the Hallel – Psalms 113-118 -that were joyously sung on Jewish holy days (vv 36-38).
Jesus was like no other king. People were not responding to his gorgeous clothing, golden crown, royal sceptre, prancing war horse… Jesus had no regalia, yet his kingly power and majesty were evident to all who were drawn to witness his ride into Jerusalem. Jesus was not being confrontational, but he calmly repulsed the attempts of the Pharisees to disband and silence the crowds (v 39), speaking from the scriptures to say that if the people kept quiet, “the stones [would] cry out” (v 40). He had no intention of being deflected from his purpose. The mood of the crowd was to change within days, and Jesus knew that soon he would face “mocking and spitting” as foretold by the prophet Isaiah (50:6). He had, however, “set his face like flint” (Isaiah 50:7), trusting in the “Sovereign Lord” to help him (vv 7, 9).
Jesus’ kingship is unique. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, gives us an extraordinary picture of a king and saviour who became “nothing”. Although he is “in very nature God” – God himself (v 6) – he put aside any pretentions to divinity and majesty, took the “very nature of a servant” and became human (v 7). Further, he “humbled himself and became obedient” to something that could never have had him in its power, without his permission – death itself. Nor was it just any death; it was the most shameful and painful death ever devised – “death on a cross” (v 8).
Jesus’ kingship will not be forever hidden, however. He is now exalted to “the highest place” and given a name “above every name” (v 9). One day all will acknowledge Jesus as King and confess him as Lord (vv 10-11).
This is not a world where humility and service are admired. Our media focus on the designer dresses, the private jets, the exotic holidays, the lavish homes of the rich, powerful and famous. Those who claim our adulation do not do so by being humble or obedient, but by flaunting their possessions, performing their charitable acts in full view, and by setting their own rules. Someone who dresses and lives modestly is unlikely to make it to the pages of Hello magazine. However, we Christians are called to have “the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus” (v 5) who left us a pattern of eternal value to guide us in our faith and to lead us to everlasting life.
By Susan Thorne