The Sunday of Palm and Passion — a significant day for Christian hearts. Yes, we celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with voices of joy, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Palms wave in the air and our worship is filled with anticipation.
But we must also anticipate the Passion that is to come, the suffering of Jesus that leads to the crucifixion. We cherish an upbeat Gospel reading that leads us to celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. To be sure, it is a festive affair, complete with a parade route strewn with palm branches. But we quickly progress to the stark reading of Jesus’ passion, bearable only because we already know its ending of new life.
The city that echoed with cheering during the grand parade was a city that, in just a few days, echoed with hatred. The tide had turned. Cries of “Hosanna” turned to shouts of a very different kind: “Crucify him!”
On this Sunday, we must remember the palms and then we must move our hearts into the passion. We must let our hearts rejoice, and then be filled with grief. Palms and Passion — that is the complete Gospel.
Walter Brugemann says it like this:
We cannot leap from Palm Sunday to Easter. We have to go day by day through the week of denial and betrayal to the Last Supper to arrest and trial and execution. That is the only road to Easter, and that is our work this week.
A Prayer for this Day and the Week of Christ’s Passion
Blessed are you, Holy God, for in Jesus Christ you came to rule in our lives, not as a king, but as a humble servant, riding on a donkey on dusty roads’ amidst people shouting “Hosanna!” Enter into our hearts this day with your glory, that we may greet you with shouts of praise.
God Most High, gracious and glorious, blessed is the one who comes in your name. May we follow with faithfulness and joy, shouting “Hosanna in the highest heaven.”
Lead us now, Holy God, on the road to the cross that we may remember that when Jesus cried and breathed his last you tore away the ancient curtain
between heaven and earth, life and death.
As we turn now to face the cross, show us Jesus, in all his suffering, and console us as we experience Christ’s grief and our own.
Lord God, almighty, all-merciful, how great is your love
that you went down to the depths for us: into suffering, sin, and shame,
into darkness, despair, and death.
Now we ask, O God, that you help us to pave the way for your eternal realm
with our prayer and praise,
with our service and love,
until the very stones cry out at the coming of your new creation;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
– Prayer based on Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; Mark 14:1—15:47; Matthew 26:14–27:66.