The Day They Cried: The Rocks and our Redeemer

Palm Sunday! How to explain the cheering.

And why the cheering stops. And the tears begin to flow.

Some things just cannot be held back. Kids know this… and the kid in all of us. Play hide and seek. The seeker comes close. And your sneeze cannot be silenced. Your cough won’t keep quiet. No one can jail a giggle… especially at the most inopportune moment. A-yawn-in-church drops your jaw and gapes your gums with an insistence no hydraulic cylinder could lift or clamp shut. And in the movies, or at the ballpark, there are times when tears will flow no matter what, and cheers will leap from the throat of the meekest soul.

Whatever the force or face that makes these things true, it’s this that lies at the very heart of Palm Sunday. And heaven and earth share and share alike in it. Us, too. And God knows we will need it, if we are ever to get from Palm Sunday to Good Friday. And from Friday at 3 in the afternoon, ‘til Easter Sunday when the sun begins to shine.  Palm Sunday is urgent! It’s a turning time. Here is majesty wrapped in mystery, marinated with marvel!

Today’s April 1st. Maybe that 1st Palm Sunday, too. Prank Day! Fools’ Day! Break-the-Rules Day. Not-As-It-Seems Day! Who-Can-Say-What-It Means Day! And here comes Jesus, again. Urgent. Insistent. Majestic, mysterious, marvelous. Impossible to hold back, from time immemorial. Why all the cheering? You’d think it all began atop the last hill, just outside Jerusalem. Jesus mounted on a borrowed donkey, skittish and unruly. The shirts off our backs cushioning his path, to steady those donkey feet to find first gear! But believe that, and we’re just April fools, not believers of the 1st order. Get this. Somewhere before the first day ever Palm Sunday began. Hence the cheering. This is a cosmic big deal. All creation gets in the act! John’s Gospel puts it like this. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, was God. …All things were made through him, and without him not one thing was made. …[THAT] Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; and we beheld his glory [that 1st Palm Sunday], glory as of the only Son from the Father.” The Apostle Paul explains it to us. “Christ Jesus, though in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. [O no, instead of choosing those long, forever-in-paradise-walks-with-God in the Garden-of-Delight] God’s Christ emptied himself, choosing the form of a servant, born in human likeness. [What an April 1st idea!] What’s more, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even on a cross. And [can you do you believe it] just for this reason God has now highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name above every name, so at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, even under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus [this Christ to be crucified] is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” You just can’t hold back such a thing! It’s this primordial urge, born of the insistent desire of God’s-Word-to-become-flesh …with a will to save… that puts Palm Sunday branches in our hands, Hosannas on our lips and our very own backs stripped down, just to give a donkey a soft-shoe ride to the gates of Glory! Then and now, of course, there are solemn souls who never get the April Fools follies, or the Savior on a donkey. They always complain of the noise. [Don’t ya just know they insist, children should be seen and not heard?!] No wonder Jesus himself had an April 1st chuckle and chided them. “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out!” See, every atom of creation has a stake in this! Afterall, it’s their Maker and Redeemer too, dangling his feet off the back of this donkey! Why all the cheering? Because we have to! There’s no holdin’ it back. ‘Been comin on since Day 1!

And yet… the cheering WILL stop. Why? Because Jesus will call for commitment this week. Real, utter, honest, even absolute commitment. We would rather have miracles. We cheer miracles. We shun commitment. Ever notice? Read your Bibles. Not one miracle does Jesus perform for others from Palm Sunday to Good Friday. No. The Rich Young Ruler gets told, with all of us listening, “One thing you lack, give away your wealth to the poor if you want to be rich toward God.” The merchants are upended, “My Father’s is a house of prayer, not productivity; mercy, not marketing techniques!” (Somebody needs to tell our modern churches this!) When the fig tree won’t produce out-of-season for a hungry Jesus, he doesn’t bring a miracle, he curses the tree instead, because it will not commit to do a new thing for the Savior of figs and the faithful alike. [This kind of commitment is like… CWS w/o donuts, a Sanct. w/o

an organ, a church with too little parking.] The cheers begin to fade! What’s more, all week, Jesus shows and says the unimportant and the unlovely and the unacceptable are the favorites of God! The children, better guides to God than the priests. The ruffian at the Temple door who cries out, “Son of God, have pity on me,” gets a welcome warmer than the weekly worshipper totin’ tithe and Bible, but with a belittling spirit for the weak, the sick, the sinner. “Yea, Jesus!” yelling begins to back off. Commitment’s a challenge. Inclusion seems an insult to some. ‘Like an April Fool’s joke gone too far. But what does it, really does it, what quiets the crowd, even our crowd, is Jesus’ claim on the cross! He talks about it all week. And they fade away. Us, too. He explains it. And heads shake and knees quake. He gathers his best friends on Thursday for dinner. And Bread and Wine become Body and Blood and the hymns get sad and the Table empties. He prays in the Garden and nary a soul will stay awake with him one hour. And while he stands trial, no one speaks up for him in the chamber, and outside, his BFF’s insist, “I tell you, I don’t know the man.” Commitment. inclusion. The cross. This is why the cheering stops.

And at the last, the tears will flow…from Jesus, and I think, from the rocks as well, that first Palm Sunday. The cheers for Jesus, become tears for us. Because, as Jesus says, “The things that make for peace are hid from their eyes. They do not know God’s moment when it comes.” O, Jesus weeps for us, even as we cheer for him!

Palm Sunday! Cheers. Tears

And glory.

ALL Glory to the King!

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