Shouting at Jesus
Before I start, I want to share a joke that preachers often tell, when people ask them the difference between a sermon and a homily. The answer—which is real, but is also a joke—is, this: “about five minutes.” Well, today I want to say that the difference between a homily and a homilette is “another five minutes!” What we have here is a homilette.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Today is Palm Sunday, the day we begin shouting at Jesus. First, we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, when the crowd—when we—received him so joyously, shouting “Hosanna.” But then we recount the events of the coming week, and we know that, before this week is over, Jesus will be executed. More properly put, by Friday we ourselves will be shouting, “Crucify him!”
So today is a day that we hold in tension these two realities:
- That Jesus is the one who we love and celebrate.
- And that Jesus is the one who we, before the week is out, will kill.
This is a week when we will party with Jesus on Thursday night, and will deny that we even know him on Friday.
We will spend the whole week resolving these two tensions. For now, let me give you this preliminary thought:
- Jesus isn’t what we wanted. We know that way back when, Jesus wasn’t the political savior for whom the people longed to free them from Roman rule. This isn’t our issue today, though, is it?
- For us, Jesus isn’t the one we want, right here and now, to help us win the lottery, or to heal us from dying, or even just to explain the mysteries of the universe: Why is life so hard, so seemingly cruel? Why does evil sometimes win?
The insight that I was given late this week, when I learned that Carol Spigner had to be away and that I would be preaching today, is this: We deny Jesus, and our shouts of Hosanna turn to shouts of Crucify, not because we don’t know that Jesus is God-come-among-us. No, we deny Jesus because we know exactly who he is, and we fault him for the reality of our lives.
The only way that I can navigate the dichotomy of this day, this week—when our shouts of Hosanna turn to Crucify—is to remember that, even while these events are occurring, Jesus forgives us. He looked around the party on Thursday night, when he invented the Eucharist, and he knew exactly what was about the happen, yet he forgave his friends their humanity. He forgives us our humanity. The very first thing that Jesus said on the cross on Friday was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Indeed, we do not know what we are doing. And, as we will hear on the Second Sunday of Easter, the very first thing that the Risen Lord said to his disciples was, “Peace be with you.” In other words, “I forgive you.”
We can rest assured in God’s forgiveness. We can rest eternally in Jesus’ pardon. Yet this is the week that we are asked to not take this divine forgiveness and pardon for granted.
Hosanna! Blessed is Jesus; he is our Lord!