April 9, 2017
In the book of Exodus 12:3, we would read how the Lord had commanded the Israelites to remember the Passover and to remember it starting on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. Most Christians are not familiar with this particular month in the Jewish calendar. On the Hebrew calendar, it is the first month of the ecclesiastical year and the seventh month (eighth, in leap year) of the civil year. Nisan usually falls in March–April on the Gregorian calendar. This year, Passover starts tomorrow.
And so hundred 10th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan a lamb was chosen. For one of the most important biblical holy days would take place - the Passover. They were to take a lamb for each house. The 10th day the lamb was chosen and was offered up as a sacrifice.
So the 10th day of Nisan is the day of the lamb, the day of its choosing, of its being taken, and of its being identified with the house that would sacrifice it.
For us Christ the Messiah is the Passover lamb and therefore he is linked to the 10th of Nisan. So what we call Palm Sunday is in reality, the 10th of Nisan, the day of the lamb.
As the people of Jerusalem were leading the Passover lambs to their homes, Christ the Messiah was being led from the Mount of olives into the city gates. The bringing in of the Messiah to the city with palms and hosannas was actually the fulfillment of what had been commanded from ancient times, the bringing in of the lamb.
By the time Jesus enters Jerusalem just before the Passover, anticipation is thick. Many fellow pilgrims and locals have heard of this man and his miracles, like raising a dead man to life. A man who could do that could surely free them from their oppression; Maybe this at last was the Messiah.
Thousands of Jewish pilgrims poured into Jerusalem for the Passover. The 0.5 square mile city was busy with preparation, teeming with people arriving to celebrate the holiday that commemorated the Exodus, when God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt.
Every year Passover according to Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 16), the Jewish people came to the temple at Jerusalem to offer a Passover sacrifice, eat unleavened bread as their ancestors had before leaving Egypt and remember. This remembrance is not just of a past event, but a present reality and future hope. The Exodus story is the foundational one for the Jewish people; God saving his people, freeing them from their oppression and giving them a new identity as His chosen people. While the Exodus had already happened, first century Jews long for it to continue to happen; they would have celebrated God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt with an eye to how God would come to free them from Roman rule.
Jesus tells his disciples were to go, to untie a colt, and if they were asked about it, say, “The Lord has need of it.” Jesus’s choice of steed is deliberate and prophetic. First of all, he chooses to ride rather than walk into the city. This is only one of two references in the Gospels to Jesus riding anything. Second, He is not riding a war horse but a humble beast of burden. His contemporaries would’ve known the Zachariah passage well, and the Royal, Messianic expectations attached to it. At the beginning of one of the holy city’s most crowded, holy weeks, Jesus bursts onto the scene, enacting a Messianic passage.
This was not lost on the crowd. They lay out their cloaks as a makeshift red carpet and wave palm branches. Hundreds of years before, back in the days of Jezebel, Jehu received a similar response when his fellow Israelites learned he had just been anointed king. The men around him quickly covered the ground with their cloaks and announced Jehu king with a trumpet blast. In their more recent history, when Judas Maccabeus had defeated the Syrians and purified the Temple, the people greeted him by waving palm branches (2 Maccabees 10:1-9).
This crowd, gathered for the Passover in the early first century A.D., indicates what they understood and hoped for; Jesus as their liberating king. This is also evident in what they say: “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” While now, Sunday schools and Palm Sunday processions use “Hosanna!” as an expression of praise, the Hebrew word literally means “Save now!” Save us now - from Rome, from this continued state of exile; save us like God saved us from Egypt, like God saved our ancestors from the Philistines by the hand of David. The phrase “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” comes from Psalm 118. The Psalm is a triumphant one, celebrating God’s steadfast love, defeat of enemies and return from exile.
The Gospel of John points out that some of the crowd had followed Jesus from Bethany, where He and His disciples were staying, and spread the word about what Jesus had done; Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. This would have been more than utterly astounding to a first century Jew. In Ezekiel 37, the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of God bringing a whole valley of dry bones back to life. Bones, or anything dead for that matter, were unclean in the Mosaic law. Ezekiel’s vision is one that symbolizes God making dead Israel live, making the defiled clean and inaugurating a new era of Spirit filled life, forgiveness and return from exile.
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the prophetic words in Ezekiel no doubt came right to the mind the people at this time: “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live and I will place you in your own land” (Ezekiel 37:13-14).
The crowd is hoping that Jesus is inaugurating this new era as the promised divine and just ruler who will finally free Israel of her oppressors and set the world to rights.
Expectation is deep; the crowd is excited, and Jesus has made His grand entrance. And just what does He do now? Mark 11:19 tells us He went and walked around the temple and then went back to nearby Bethany with the 12 disciples. He doesn’t storm into the Roman headquarters; he doesn’t gather rebel troops or even give a speech. He simply looks around the Temple and leaves. They probably asked, “What kind of messianic program is that?”
From His entrance on Sunday, Jesus constantly raises and disappoints the crowd’s expectations. He was clearly not the military victor many of them wanted. This is a king who rides a borrowed donkey, not a mighty war horse, clearly not intending to seize His throne - or His people’s liberation - by force.
So on the day when the Passover lamb was to be brought to the house, God brought the Lamb of God to his house, to Jerusalem, and to the temple. And just as the lambs of the 10th of Nisan had to be sacrificed on Passover by those who dwelt in the house, so too the Lamb of God would be sacrificed on the Passover by those who dwelt in Jerusalem. The Lamb of God had to come to the house of God so that the blessings of salvation could come. So, it is only when you bring a lamb home, when you bring him into the place where you actually live your life, when you bring him into every room, every closet, and every crevice, only then can the fullness of the blessings of salvation begin.
Let us pray.
Father God, on this day of great rejoicing, when we welcome our Lord Jesus Christ as our King and Savior, we also walk in the shadow of His cross. Hosanna we cry. Blessed are you who come in God’s name to save us. Hosanna.
Strengthen our faith on this palm Sunday so that when the time comes to carry the cross we might still call out to You with heartfelt praise. Give us the grace and the courage to follow You this holy week from death to resurrection, from darkness to the fullness of light.
Father, we come with hesitant steps and uncertain motives. To sweep out the corners were sin has accumulated, and uncover the ways we have strayed from Your truth. Exposed the empty and barren places where we don’t allow You to enter. Reveal our halfhearted struggles where we have been indifferent to the suffering of others. Nurture the faint stirrings of new life where your spirit has begun to grow. Let your healing like transformer us into the image of Your Son. For You alone can bring new life and make us whole.
Lastly father, let us enter the city of God today, and shout Hosanna to our King. Let us join the walk toward freedom, and follow Christ’s path to wholeness. Let our hearts ache for justice and mercy. And wait for peace and freedom. Let us turn our backs on the powers that grasp for control, and follow the One who brings life. Let us walk in solidarity with the abandoned and the oppressed, with the lonely and downhearted, with the refugees and immigrants, with those of different race or simply different lifestyles; and let us welcome the broken and the sick. Let us touch and see as Christ draws near, riding in triumph toward the cross.
We need you O Christ our Savior. Hosanna! Amen
God Love You +++
+The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.