Sermon – April 5, 2020 – Palm Sunday

Grace and peace to you – from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

 

If you were to be a traveler in the hot and dry climate of the Middle East in the area surrounding Jerusalem you would be able to see Palm trees from quite a distance because their trunks stand tall and stately and their branches reach high up toward the heavens.  Now palm trees can’t grow without water so to spot them as you journeyed, particularly if you were on foot, would be a welcome sight! This is because their presence would mean that you are approaching a place with water and shade and most likely food, too.

Something I didn’t know until recently is that Palm Trees have sometimes been given the name: Tree of Life. One reason is they provide things the body needs to live – water, food, protection from hot sun. But here’s what I consider to be particularly interesting – with their branches reaching up to the sky – Palm Trees were thought to be a link between heaven and earth.

That’s how the Tree of Life is described in the Bible – as a connection between the earth we live on – and God’s domain in heaven. So, because of that – palm branches have long been used to form arches over kings as they rode in procession – representing the connection of earthly kings to heavenly gods.

Jerusalem at that time of Jesus was ruled by the Roman Empire, so whenever the Roman Governors would ride through the city with much pageantry, people would hold Palm branches to the sky to signify a connection between this earthly king and a heavenly god. So on that day when Jesus entered town on a donkey and the crowds waved palm branches: Did the people see him as a great ruler – and raise their palm branches to honor his earthly kingship with a heavenly god? Or were they merely mocking him and his pathetic procession?

We’re not really sure. But we do know that the day would come when there would be those who would suppose Jesus to be the Tree of Life – because of who he was as God’s Son and as the Savior of the world.

One thing that I enjoy is to look at art work of the Bible passages that we hear during worship.

So it was that last week I looked online at paintings of the Palm Sunday Procession. Much of the art work has the palm branches held high; Some with people throwing cloaks ahead of the donkey. Some have the people acting rather distracted from the main event by interacting with the people around them.  Some portray every person looking straight ahead at Jesus. In some, Jesus looks rather stoic.  But a favorite find was one painting in which Jesus was looking into the faces of the crowd like he was studying what those faces were saying to him.

It caused me to wonder; What did Jesus see in the faces of those who lined the street when he entered town? Curiosity?  Most probably. Fatigue – confusion – caution?

Maybe some were joyful and content and celebrating the day with family and neighbors.

Anger at the authorities who most likely were a bit cavalier and maybe even held a self-righteous attitude that they had the authority to hold the power of the day. Others would most likely have been hunkered down with worry.

But I suspect Jesus may have seen mostly fear. Those were very unsettling times and people would have been uncertain and worried about what the future would bring.  How often in the stories of Jesus did he say to the people surrounding him, “Do not fear?”  Most people would not have missed the fact that troubling times were brewing.

Hosanna – to the Son of David – they shout as they wave the palm branches – Save us we pray!

As Holy Week begins this year we trust that Jesus Christ is entering our midst too, and surrounding us in our scattered locations where we are this morning.

My question becomes – what is Jesus seeing in our faces?

I think he is seeing people filled with great emotion – including fatigue, confusion, exhaustion, anger, worry, uncertainty, sorrow, fear.

So, with the images of Palm Branches surrounding us we are reminded who Jesus Christ is for us as we have heard throughout Scripture:

He is God’s Son, the Savior of the world who comments us on earth with the eternal God of the cosmos.

He is the source of Living Water to satisfy our deep thirsts.

He is the Bread come down from heaven as food to sustain life.

He is the place to find rest, and the healer of our ills.

He is the author of peace and justice who forgives the sins of the world and who offers hope for a future filled with love and life!

All Glory Laud and Honor – we sing!  Hosanna – Save us we pray! sign

And Scripture also reminds us that whenever we call out to God, we are always, always heard – with great compassion.

Now may the wisdom and mercy and strength of God bring about the healing of the nations – and peace within our world.  Amen.