I love Palm Sunday. As a child, I loved to bring home as many palm fronds as I could scavenge from the pews after church. My uncle had this cool way of making them into crosses. And, of course I love Easter. It's the days between celebrating Jesus' triumphal entry and his miraculous resurrection that give us problems.
We like to skip over the icky parts. Those sad, uncomfortable, soul-reckoning parts. We want the glory and the hallelujahs without the groaning and gnashing. And yet....
Reading Matthew 21 can be a good way to start your Holy Week meditations. Yes, you get the spontaneous crowd eruptions and Hosannas! But you also see the beginning of the end. Those leaders simply did not like what Jesus was proclaiming. How dare he give people joy and hope? The audacity. What we see here is the quest for power that ultimately will bring about a horrific execution.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
When I read scripture, I like to put myself in the participants' shoes. I think about what the crowd was feeling to make them respond that way. What was different about this man that made them put their cloaks on the ground? What about the disciples? Maybe they were befuddled by all this attention. Maybe a little proud? And then there's the chief priests. As much as we'd like to disassociate from them, they represent a human element here, too. The yucky side of us that likes to be right, to be in control, to have final say. Here's this guy, refusing to answer "yes and no" questions and giving them these backhanded "oh, snap" parables.
Jesus rode a short wave of glory into Jerusalem whereupon he immediately began his defense. Dare we put ourselves in his shoes? His poise, his attitude, his words, all speak to a knowledge beyond us. This week, as I prepare for the ultimate celebration, I want to remember what the party's for. He rode in on a donkey and walked out with a cross.