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Palm Sunday in a Pandemic


As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]

“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” Matthew 21:1-11

Today is Palm Sunday, one of the few Palm Sundays that I've not gone to a church service. Weird. But, I am fortunate that my pastor and his wife (also a pastor, but of another church) did a short video about the gospel passage for today, Matthew 21:1-11, and I have some thoughts.

In this passage, Jesus is coming in to Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week, what for him is the week before his crucifixion. He comes in, not as a conquering hero, but on a donkey. Yet, the people applaud him as a king, throwing down palm branches. If he was a king, though, wouldn't he be coming in on a horse, with legions of troops and the spoils of war?

Matthew is showing us that Jesus is doing the unexpected. He's the Messiah, come to save the world, but not in the way that everyone thought that he would. The people are saying, "Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!", but they're saying it to a guy who's riding on a donkey.

This made me think of how Jesus comes in to our lives. We're living through a global pandemic right now. Some religious leaders are talking about Jesus is stronger than the disease and how he's going to wipe it out. Well, clearly he could, because he's God. Yet, Jesus shows that he doesn't usually work that way. Like the way he entered into Jerusalem, the Messiah doesn't always act like the Messiah we expect. While we may want Jesus to wave his hand and get rid of coronavirus, it looks like he's expecting us to do our part and practice social distancing and appropriate hygiene. That is, he's going to let the laws of science do their thing.

We're going into Holy Week where we remember the week before Jesus' crucifixion. We can't spend this week in community this year: no Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services. No Easter Egg hunts, no Easter services. We'll spend these days with our families remembering Jesus' final days with just a few people. And remembering that Jesus' final miracle was the biggest one. The one that sealed our fate forever.

Because Jesus died and was then raised from the dead, we are forgiven forever from our sin. That gives us the hope of heaven, but it also gives us the hope of abundant life, a richer life, here on earth. This week, let's remember that Jesus lived here with us on earth. He did the unexpected for 33 years. He could have saved us without hanging out with us for so long, but he spent that time teaching us how to live.

What was the primary thing that Jesus taught us? Love. He taught us to love each other. His whole life was loving the people around him. And then, his death, burial, and resurrection was about love for all humanity.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

Love one another this Easter week. Stay home. Stay connected through social media.

Catherine