Rodger McDaniel is the Pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church
in Cheyenne. This is an excerpt from yesterday’s sermon.
The Gospel tells several stories of Holy Week. One is of betrayal but it was not only Judas who would betray Jesus. Another is of death but that one has a hopeful ending. The overarching story is of one who believed so strongly in God’s vision for the world that he was willing to die for those beliefs. That is where I find meaning in Palm Sunday. It’s not in the fickle crowds who are wildly waving palm branches in anticipation this is the new King David who slaughtered his own of thousands while Saul could only kill his thousands. It’s not our fickleness that is being celebrated but his courage.
The man riding on the back of that donkey knows what lies ahead. The parade into Jerusalem is his death march. Still he rides through a crowd he knows will abandon him. By Thursday night of that last week, even his disciples will go to sleep rather than pray with him.
What matters to you so much you would march into a crowd of your peers knowing they disagree with you? What cause matters so much you’d write a letter to the editor or your congressman, organize a rally, give a speech…put your reputation on the line? Ideas, issues, causes matter to each of us but is there anything that matters to you so much that you’d risk your reputation, your friendships, your acceptance among friends and colleagues?
Many in that first Palm Sunday crowd had been there three years earlier, listening when Jesus gave his sermon on the mount. They had heard his words. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 45Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Apparently, they didn’t think he meant it anymore than today’s politicians who proclaim hopes for peace mean it. Their disappointment must have been palpable when they realized Jesus actually meant it. Unlike King David, Jesus was meek, humble, hungry for justice and bestowing God’s blessings not on military victories but on the peacemakers.
Then the Palm Sunday crowd turned ugly. In John’s Gospel: Pilate went out to the Jews again and told them, ‘I find no case against him. 39But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ 40They shouted in reply, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ Barabbas was a bandit. From then Pilate tried to release Jesus, but the people cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.’ 13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement. 14He said, ‘Here is your King!’ 15They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’
Think about it. Crowds like to hear the words of Jesus. They like it his quotes about justice, peace, humility. We are comfortable with theologies of hope. But we want leaders like David, victorious, willing to live by the sword and to die by the sword, who are strong not humble, unjust when the times call for injustice. We like a hopeful faith but we need someone who is tough enough, flawed enough to protect us from the insecurities of the times.
We love it when our leaders talk like Jesus but deep down where our insecurities dwell, we want them to act like David.