‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
we blessed you from the house of the Lord’. Psalms 118:26
Today is a blessed day; it is t
he day of Christ’s final entry to Jerusalem. He
intentionally approaches the city knowing that the events following from his entry will change the course of human history.
Three reasons make this journey remarkable:
First, the crowd acknowledge Jesus for who he is. Christ is, ‘the King who comes in the Name of the Lord’, the crowd, all be it for a short time, recognise his true identity.
Second, Christ as well as receiving glory, he is actively provoking it. We usually hear of Christ being a person who prefers to work quietly. when sought by crowds, he chooses to slip through them, in order to spend time in solitary. But here, it is almost certain that he organised his final entry to Jerusalem.
Third reason, on which we spend the rest of our time today, is that Christ self-consciously promotes himself as the fulfilment of the Holy Scriptures.
Christ the true King – the Glory of the Lord
His acceptance of glory comes as a result of identifying himself as the fulfilment of the rich, multi-layered prophecies, concepts, imagery and symbolism of the Old Testament. Here comes, shouts the crowd, Jesus who was foreshadowed by Solomon the King.
In the book of Kings, we read of Solomon who when anointed as King mounted on the mule of his father, king David. With his companions, ‘he road from (Gihon) to Jerusalem where the people of Israel rejoiced and their rejoicing caused a great uproar.’ (1 Kings. 1:44-45). The scene is re-enacted by Jesus today: here comes, says the crowd greeting Christ, the one who is greater than Solomon: Jesus, the mighty Saviour; born of the house of David, whose Kingdom shall have no end.
Here comes, tells us the Gospel writers, the fulfilment of the words of Zechariah the prophet, who wrote: ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Proclaim it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you; He is righteous and saving; He is gentle and mounted upon a donkey, even a young foal’. (Zechariah 9:9). Zechariah says the King will come from the East; he writes, ‘the Feet of the Lord who becomes King stands on Mount Olives facing Jerusalem from the East.’ Some Jews of the Old Testament had a habit of standing at the gate of the Temple looking eastward awaiting the coming of the King. They carrying Palm branches gazing upon Sun raise, which symbolised the coming of the Lord to his Temple.
The One coming from East, we are told, is the Glory of the Lord; the Daystar, he is the dawn breaking from on high, ‘to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death’. His coming will result in a yearly feast, taking place at Tabernacle, and causing people from every tribe and nation, (just like it is the case with us today), to come to worship the King who has come in the Name of the Lord.
This is made more vivid by the crowd who, while holding Palm branches, are greeting Jesus with a verse from Psalm 118 ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord’. This Psalm (118) was a Halel Psalm (a praise Psalm); it was recited joyfully, at Tabernacle and other feasts, as part of the procession to the Holy City.
The Pharisees are attentive to the crowds claim about Jesus. But the claim causes them discomfort, ‘Teacher’ they say, ‘rebuke your disciples.’ But Jesus’ reply shows that he is pleased with the crowd. ‘I tell you’, says Jesus, ‘if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’ Jesus response draws attention to the second part of the verse quoted by the crowd, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we blessed you from the house of the Lord’. Jesus hints at the fact that the event of his entrance to Jerusalem is much greater than Solomon’s coronation, as such it naturally provokes a great response – not just the people, but Jerusalem and the Temple should imitate the crowds welcome of – the one who has come in the name of the Lord.
However, as the events of Holy Week makes it clear, nor the Temple, or Jerusalem were ready to receive their King and Lord. The religious leaders were the builders who rejected Christ the Cornerstone. But worse was yet to come: even those who waved Palm branches – those who shouted Hosanna at the beginning of the week – came to shout ‘crucify Him’ by the end of the week.
To start with, the crowd were convinced that Jesus by all accounts must have been the Christ; it was easy and safe to place their trust in him. For after all, he was a righteous teacher, one who opened the eyes of the blind, made the lame walk, fed the five thousand and raised the dead. His works are good works, works that contribute to our wellbeing. But Christ’s sight was fixed on the Cross, something the crowd could not comprehend. The Cross contradicted the image of the Messiah they have come to appreciate. Their image of the Messiah did not include a Roman cross.
Christ’s sight was not set on their goals – on their personal ambitions. Rather it was fixed on a Cross – A Cross he walked to alone. There, on that ugly Tree, he was hanged like a criminal – his form lacked in honour, with no majesty or beauty for us to admire. And it is there, on the Cross of Calvary that we witness his Coronation as the King, the one who has come in the Name of the LORD.
Christ on Palm Sunday
Today, we too join the crowd receiving Jesus with Palms. And it is all too easy to exchange the real Christ with a false Christ. A Christ who is simply here to agree with whatever we think is right and proper for my good and the good of humanity. However, we are not only carrying palm branches –we are carrying Palm Crosses. Which indicates our awareness of the sort of King we worship – the King, who laid down his life for his subjects. It shows, we hope and pray, that here in this Temple, St. Richard of Chichester, the stones, people, priest, and Altar exist to worship Christ the King, we are here to identify with the Man of Sorrows.
This being the case, I invite you to pay attention to the events of Holy Week, with its Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil. Come with open hearts. Come, not simply to revisit a story of distant past, but to re-live the passion afresh. Come and allow the events of the week to shade light on both, Christ’s identity, and our identity as his servants.