Every year at this time I look through my oldies but goodies music collection and listen to a Rock Opera popular during my teenage years: “Jesus Christ Superstar.” One song tells the story about Palm Sunday starting with crowd that greets Jesus as he rides into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.
Hosanna, Heysanna, Sanna, Sanna Ho. Sanna Heysanna Hosanna.
Hey J.C., J.C. you’re alright by me… Sanna Ho Sanna Hey Superstar.
Palm Sunday: churches celebrate with masses of children walking happily down the aisle waving palm branches and singing Hosanna’s. Every year, we rejoice and remember what happened when Jesus entered Jerusalem. The 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 as if in a ticker tape parade. The crowd is singing and yelling with enthusiasm:
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 “Holy Week” when we remember and relive the last few days of Jesus earthly life. In one week plus one day you hear about Palm Sunday, the plot by the Pharisees to destroy Christ, the last supper, the prayer in the garden, the arrest, the trial, Peter’s denial, the crucifixion until finally there is the miraculous resurrection as Jesus appears alive. All in eight short days.
Palm Sunday should be an exciting day for Jesus. This kind of enthusiastic crowd, shouting praise for God would be any preacher’s fondest fantasy. Jesus is obviously a great success as a minister — or is he? This may surprise you. Jesus Christ Superstar goes on to record Jesus’ response:
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!
The Gospel of Luke says: “As they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry.” (20:41) He cried? Isn’t that a strange response for the guest of honor at a parade?
For three years Jesus taught the meaning of God’s Son 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.
But Jesus had a different mission: offering the gift of salvation to the entire world. In order to succeed, he had to be misunderstood, beaten and crucified. Why? Jesus needed to defeat death so we could receive and anticipate eternal life.
Sadly, the same crowds who shouted “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday would in a few short days be shouting… “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! You’re not the Messiah we want. So, Crucify Him!”
Before the end of the week, Jesus is 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. 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.
But remember this…
Jesus Christ Superstar is an excellent musical but it leaves a very important part of the story out. There is no resurrection in the rock opera. Jesus is crucified, dead and buried. The last song features Judas asking the ultimate question of Jesus: Why? Why at this time? At this place?
Why indeed? None of the sacrifice matters unless we believe what happens next.
After Palm Sunday and the Last Supper, the betrayal, the trial, the crucifixion, the burial. After three short days we celebrate Easter. After reliving the events leading to Jesus death, we celebrate and remember Jesus resurrection. Easter Sunday is coming.
Now that is a good reason for all of us to sing: Hosanna, Heysanna, Sanna, Sanna Ho. Sanna Heysanna Hosanna. Hey J.C., J.C. you’re alright by me… Sanna Ho Sanna Hey Superstar.