Every year at this time I brush the dust off the old record player and listen to a Rock Opera popular during my teenage years: “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I love the way the crowd greets Jesus on Palm Sunday as he rides into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Some of you older ones can probably sing it with me:
Hosanna, Heysanna, Sanna, Sanna Ho… Sanna Hey Sanna Ho Sanna.
Hey J.C., J.C. you’re alright by me… Sanna Ho Sanna Hey Superstar.
Palm Sunday: Many church worship services will celebrate with masses of children walking happily down the aisle waving palm branches and singing Hosanna’s. Every year, as God’s church, we rejoice and remember what happened when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem. The enthusiastic crowd spread their coats and waved palm branches shouting, “Bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!” (Luke 19:38)
Can you feel the excitement? In the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar is riding into Jerusalem for the equivalent of a ticker tape parade. The crowd loves and adores him. They go on singing:
Christ you know I love you. Did you see I waved? I believe in you and God,
So tell me that I’m saved. (Repeat Often)
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of what Christians call Holy Week when we remember and relive the last few days of Jesus earthly life. Prepare for a roller coaster ride because in one week you will hear about Palm Sunday, Jesus teaching in the Temple, ransacking the market square in the Temple, the plot by the Pharisees to destroy Christ, the last supper with His disciples, the agonizing hours of prayer in the garden, the arrest, the trial, Peter’s denial, the painful crucifixion and finally the glorious resurrection as Jesus appears once again, alive and well. We hear all of this in just eight short days. It’s too much!
This is a time for personal reflection. I suggest you pick any one of the four Gospels and reread the Biblical account of Jesus last days. Then stop your busy schedule for a moment and think about what Holy Week means to you? Where would you be right now if these events never took place?
The Palm Sunday parade would be any preacher’s fondest fantasy. We revel in big crowds that are excited and enthusiastic. Church attendance is up, so sing “Hallelujah!” Jesus is obviously a great success as a minister… or is he? Jesus Christ Superstar goes on to record the response of Jesus:
Neither you Simon, nor the fifty thousand, nor the Romans, nor the Jews,
Nor Judas, nor the Twelve, nor the priest, nor the scribes nor doomed Jerusalem itself,
Understand what power is, understand what glory is, understand at all….
…to conquer death you only have to die. You only have to die!
Jesus in the Gospel of Luke says it very simply: “…as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry.” (20:41) Isn’t that a strange response for the guest of honor at a parade?
For three years Jesus tried to teach the meaning of God’s Son being on earth, but no one understood what it meant: the disciples, the crowds, the Romans, the Jews, the religious leaders, none of them. They wanted a great leader: A Messiah who would free the Jews and save Israel. Jesus’ mission from God was not to save Israel, yet. Christ came to save the world and offer everyone the blessed gift of eternal life.
The same crowds who shouted “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday would in a few short days be shouting… “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! You’re not what a respectable Messiah should look and act like. So, Crucify Him!” Before the end of the week, Jesus would be arrested, tried, whipped, humiliated, spat upon, cursed, plotted against, crucified, dead and buried. When Jesus was born there was no room for him in the inn. When He died, there was no room for Him in the world. What a sad thought!
So instead of rejoicing on Palm Sunday for Jesus Christ the “Superstar,” we should remember how Jesus responded when he saw the city of Jerusalem… He wept! Maybe we should too… for them and for us.