The Things That Make for Peace

Meditation on Luke 19:28–42

Palm Sunday 2022

Pastor Karen Crawford

Link to live-streamed recording from this morning’s worship: https://fb.watch/ciYuT2B_nQ/

As I began to write my message yesterday, I couldn’t help but think, “This is my last Palm Sunday with you.”

I wonder if this day will forever remind me of the start of the pandemic in 2020?

 We had closed our sanctuary to in-person worship a week before, but Palm Sunday was the first time I recorded my message and all the liturgy on my cell phone.

It was the first time I led virtual Communion with Jim and Jacob from our dining room table.

Dear friends, we have made so many memories in our ministry together. So much has happened in a short time.

And today, the blessing of baptism! We have witnessed The Lord claiming as his own a woman in her 90s, and a little girl of 4! God is so good!

You know that I am struggling to say goodbye to you. To me, it seems our time has been too short. Most of the time, I am ok, busy with my pastoral responsibilities. There’s so much to be done before we move. But on Friday morning, I felt sad. I reached out to a Christian friend, who reminded me what I tell people who are grieving—that it’s OK to grieve. Give yourself permission and time to feel sad, to rest, and to cry. Tears are healing, aren’t they?

It helps me to know that Jesus cried, too. Do you know that Jesus grieves and suffers with us? Scripture reveals that on at least two occasions, the Lord shed tears. When he was at the tomb of Lazarus, and saw his loved ones grieving, he wept.

And today, in our Palm Sunday reading, Jesus weeps for Jerusalem.

***

Our Lenten study of Adam Hamilton’s The Way, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus presented our Palm Sunday reading in a different light. Hamilton calls the Palm Sunday procession a peaceful protest. A peaceful protest.

The key word for today’s message is PEACE.

Jesus’ words are not needed to proclaim that he is the long-awaited Messiah, the true King of kings. All it takes is riding a borrowed donkey—with the details worked out just before the event.

The people make the radical declaration for him. Waving palm branches, the people celebrate Jesus as if they are celebrating a victory. There’s no mistaking what this really is. This IS a royal procession.

Why a donkey?  Jesus has walked everywhere up to now, unless he is riding with his disciples in a fishing boat. The donkey connects Jesus with King David, who also rode a donkey. It is a practical choice. A donkey is “more surefooted than a horse on the rocky, hilly terrain of Palestine and is able to travel farther on less water.” But this is also a choice to reveal the character of the rider. In the case of David, the donkey is “a humble beast reflecting (his) identity as the shepherd king.” (137)

There’s another reason for the donkey. It fulfills the promise of the prophet Zechariah, given to the Jewish people 500 years before Christ’s birth. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Zion! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey.” (Zech. 9:9)

When the people shout, Hosanna!, Hebrew for “Save us, now!,” they are quoting Psalm 118, which we read today. The psalm was first written to “welcome kings back to Jerusalem as they returned victorious from war, but it came to refer to “the Messiah who would come and deliver the people.”

There are two more processions that day, Hamilton tells us. These processions would not be peaceful; they are meant to be coercive and intimidating. “Pontius Pilate would have entered the city from the west, coming from Caesarea by the sea and bringing with him at least 1,000 Roman soldiers on chariots, on horseback, and on foot, with all their weapons and regalia. The show of force was designed to suppress any thoughts of rebellion during the Passover…(For) the festival marked the Jews’ release from bondage in Egypt, so the celebration always carried an undertone of hope for liberation—a hope that God was going to free his people again.”  (139)

Pilate would crucify two rebels on that Thursday, the Day of Preparation for the Passover, just to remind the Jewish people of Rome’s power—and who is still in control.

The other procession that day in Jerusalem was of King Herod Antipas, who used violence to suppress the people. He was the one who beheaded John the Baptist. Hamilton says, “Two of the three rulers entering Jerusalem in parades on that Palm Sunday were iron-fisted men known for their cruelty.”

So, if we weren’t sure before, we know now why the Pharisees try to stop the peaceful protest. There’s a good chance that it will provoke violence against those who declare Jesus the Messiah, the One who will deliver the people.

There’s no turning back from this moment. The cross looms ahead.

Jesus boldly declares, “I tell you, if these (people) were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Our Lord weeps, then, but not for what is going to happen to him. He cries because of what he sees in the future for the Holy City—how it will be destroyed because of the rebellion of the Jewish people.

Hamilton says, “(Jesus knew) that as the crowds rejected him, they would be rejecting his way. They would reject his call to love their enemies, to pray for those who persecuted, and to do good to those who did wrong. They would instead choose to follow the way of the sword.”

Two would-be messiahs would lead a revolt against Rome in 66 A.D. The Empire would respond by sending 60,000 troops; a million Jewish people would be killed. The Romans would burn the Temple and the Holy City, just as Jesus foresaw.

But Jesus also cries because of Jerusalem’s turning away from their ancient faith, from the Lord God himself, and their refusal to see that the Son of God had come to save the people from its sins. For Paul says we have peace with God and one another through Jesus Christ and a ministry of reconciliation.

“If you, even you,” Jesus says as he nears Jerusalem on the back of a borrowed donkey. “If you, even you had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

***

I have decided that rather than saying goodbye these next two weeks, I would say thank you, instead.

Goodbye brings sadness. Thank you brings peace.

I have some many things to be grateful for. So it will take me at least two Sunday’s to begin to say thank you.

Thank you for sharing your stories, your faith, and your very lives with me. Thank you for sharing your joys and concerns with me. Thank you for opening your homes and hearts to me and allowing me to serve as your pastor. I am so glad that I met you all and made my home with you.

And one more thing I will keep telling you—because this is the path to peace and healing.

I will pray for you—that you will always recognize the loving presence of God with you and that you will be able to see and do the things that make for peace—and that they may never be hidden from your eyes.

Jesus prays for his disciples in John 17 as he prepares to leave them for the cross. He prays for his original disciples, but he also prays for us—for those who will follow him because of the message of his disciples. And do you know that the Spirit continues to pray for us, so even if we don’t know what to pray, God knows and God will handle your problems anyway.

Listen to Jesus as he prays for us so long ago.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone,” he says, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Will you pray with me? Let us pray.

Holy One, we thank you for Jesus, our Messiah, the one who has come to bring salvation to our world. Thank you, Lord, for our faith and that Christ’s true identity is not hidden from our eyes—that your Spirit has revealed this to us. Help us, Lord, to be One, to walk the right path, to be humble and love our enemies, and to refrain from hurting those who may have hurt us. Give us strength and joy to do good and walk in your loving ways to witness to our faith and lead other generations to come to know the Messiah and Savior who is Christ the Lord. Teach us to recognize and do the things that make for peace. Through your Son, our Prince of Peace we pray. Amen.

Published by karenpts

I am the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, New York on Long Island. Come and visit! We want to share God’s love and grace with you and encourage you on your journey of faith. I have served Presbyterian congregations in Minnesota, Florida and Ohio since my ordination in 2011. I am a 2010 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and am working on a doctor of ministry degree with Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I am married to Jim and we have 5 grown children and two grandchildren in our blended family. We are parents to fur babies, Liam, an orange tabby cat, and Rory, a standard poodle.

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