April 5, 2020
We are blessed to have a number of retired pastors who worship in our congregation. For Holy Week, we asked them to each write a blog post on a different day of Holy Week. Our series begins with Dr. Jim Davis’ Palm Sunday post:
Palm Sunday: is it “the end of the beginning” or “the beginning of the end?”
Well, in one way it’s clearly “the end of the beginning,” because it’s the end of the events of Jesus’ life that lead up to it.
- The prophecy Anna gave Jesus’ parents when he was just days old; “this child is set for the rise and fall of many in Israel”
- The baptism of Jesus where “the Spirit descended on him like a dove”;
- The call of the disciples, the conflicts with the Pharisees, the crowds who “came to him from everywhere,”
- The message about God’s kingdom, the miracles, the messianic confession of Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”
All of it is prelude leading up to Palm Sunday and one word … “Hosanna! It means “Save Us!” Literally!
And it was time to say it. Time for all Jesus had done to come to this: a plea.
- For the crowds shouting it, it’s a plea for political salvation from occupation and domination by a foreign power, the empire of Rome.
- For the Jewish leaders hearing it, it’s a naïve plea for a person named Jesus to do something he obviously couldn’t (defeat Rome), and be someone he obviously wasn’t (a Messianic King).
- For the disciples, (interestingly), it’s a plea they probably listen to with a mixture of hope and fear. (Luke suggests, the disciples may have joined the “Hosannas.” But Matthew, Mark and John say nothing about what the disciples said that Palm Sunday.)
It probably means the disciples were hearing the “Hosannas” but remembering other words, Jesus’ words.
“And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem. Jesus was walking ahead of them … and those who followed were afraid. Taking the 12 Jesus began to tell them again what was going to happen. ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said “where the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes who will condemn him to death … but after 3 days he will rise.’” (Mark 10:33).
So, which was it? The end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end?
For you and me? Is Palm Sunday supposed to be a joyous celebration of Jesus as our King, or a somber reminder that our King is about to be crucified?
A few years ago, John Leax, an English professor at Houghton Christian College and a poet wrote that Palm Sunday “seems the strangest holiday of the year; a celebration of misunderstanding!” And he’s right! It was and often, it still is! For if we celebrate the end of the beginning on Palm Sunday without at the same time remembering it’s the beginning of the end, we’re misunderstanding. Because it’s both! But it’s even more!
For the word “end” has 3 meanings. Sometimes it means the “culmination” of something. Sometimes it means the “extinction” of something. And sometimes, sometimes it means “a goal, the “end” you’re hoping to reach.” (Think football for a minute and hoping to reach something called the “end” zone and the “goal” line!)
So, what’s the real “end” of Palm Sunday?
- Is it the end of the beginning?
- Yes, it’s the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry to that point. But that’s not all.
- Is it the beginning of the end?
- Yes, if you’re talking about Jesus’ earthly life. But that’s not all either.
- So, what’s left? What’s the goal?
Scripture says it so well. It doesn’t leave us in doubt.
“Since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came through one too. In the same way that everyone dies in Adam, so also everyone will be given life in Christ. Each event will happen in the right order: Christ, the first crop of the harvest, then those who belong to Christ at his coming, and then the end, when Christ hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he brings every form of rule, every authority and power to an end.” (1 Co 15:21-24).
So, this Palm Sunday,
- CELEBRATE! Shout with joy! “Hosanna! Jesus is the Messiah, the King!”
- REMEMBER, and say it softly. “Hosanna. Jesus you’re my Savior who went to the cross for me.
- AND SAY IT WITH HOPE, SURE AND CERTAIN HOPE. “Hosanna! The real goal, the ‘end-zone’ lie beyond Jerusalem and beyond the cross. It lies in the New Jerusalem for Jesus and all of us who receive him as our King and Savior.
Rev. Dr. Jim Davis was the second Senior Pastor of CKPC (from 1999-2007). He left to take a position as Senior Pastor and Head of Staff at a large church in Texas where his three grown kids live, but when it was time to retire, he and his wife Carolyn knew they wanted to be back in Kitsap and at CKPC. They live in Seabeck now, looking out at Hood Canal and the Olympics and feeling blessed. Jim still teaches New Testament part-time and online for Fuller Theological Seminary.