As Jesus enters the city, the crowd begins to throw their cloaks on the ground to make a carpet as if for a royal procession. They take up the joyful song of the disciples, a version of Psalm 118. The crowd changes “Blessed is the one who comes” to “Blessed is the king who comes.” It is a provocative twist for the people to speak of a new king under the noses of the Romans.
Perhaps that provocative proclamation makes the Pharisees nervously suggest that Jesus should calm the crowd. At other times in his ministry, Jesus tries to keep his messianic identity secret. But on this occasion, he allows the joy of the moment to resound with the singing of the crowd. The singing is unstoppable, he tells the Pharisees. If the people stop, the stones will pick up the tune.
The image of singing stones reminds us of other images of the earth responding joyfully to the presence of God. In Isaiah 55:12 the joy of the returning exiles will cause the trees to clap their hands. In Psalm 65, the meadows and the valleys sing together.
Sometimes the joy of Palm Sunday seems muted or compromised by the knowledge that the crowd who lauds Jesus will turn on him. On the other hand, if we fail to give ourselves over to the joy of praise, we fall into the same fearful posture as Pharisees in this text. If we focus on our fear, how many opportunities for joy might we miss? Responding to God’s presence with gratitude and worship can fill us with the strength to continue walking the gospel way through Holy Week and throughout our lives.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed are you Jesus, bringer of joy, bearer of good news. I will praise you with my heart and mind and voice. Amen.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Psalm 118 is a song of rejoicing, yet it also includes the prophecy that the cornerstone must experience rejection. Isaiah speaks of physical suffering, of being beaten, disgraced, and spat on. We see elements of this in the Gospel reading, where Luke describes the final moments of Jesus’ life. Bloodied and beaten, Jesus hangs on the cross and breathes his last. In Philippians, Paul places this drama within the eternal narrative of God’s redeeming work. Jesus leaves his rightful place and becomes flesh. He experiences pain and suffering, even the most humiliating form of death, crucifixion. Jesus can empathize with our suffering because he has suffered. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. How does the Suffering Servant speak to your life today?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How do you hear differently the familiar verses of this psalm when you read them together?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. Do you find it paradoxical to live as a beloved child of God and as a servant? If so, how do you live in this paradox?
Read Luke 19:28-40. How do you experience the extreme emotional highs and lows of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, even knowing how it will all turn out?
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