“Walk with Him, both in His triumphal entry and on His way to Calvary.”
Jesus entered Jerusalem many times throughout His life. As an observant Jew, he would have traveled up to the Holy City for the festivals of Tabernacles, Pentecost, and Passover each year. We have countless references to Him teaching in Jerusalem or traveling up to Jerusalem. But this is different.
He no longer tells the crowds to keep quiet. The Messianic secret is no longer enforced. As the moon begins to wax towards Passover, He enters the city. He has come to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover two other times after beginning His public ministry. But this Passover is different.
His hour has come. He enters the city – His city – not as a Passover pilgrim, but as priest, victim, and fulfillment.
Earlier in His ministry, in the seventh and eighth chapters of John, we see the tension is high surrounding His presence in Jerusalem.
“So some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, ‘Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to Him” (Jn 7:25–26). John reveals to us why: “they tried to arrest Him, but no one laid a hand upon Him, because His hour had not yet come” (Jn 7:30). And later, when he is teaching in the Temple, “He spoke these words while teaching in the treasury in the temple area. But no one arrested Him, because His hour had not yet come.” (Jn 8:20).
These last days of Lent, we’ve been reading from the Gospel of John, with tensions rising and the preaching of Jesus escalating to a crescendo. But still, the crowds are unsuccessful in stoning Him. It will not be until next week, the holiest week of the year, that the King will lay down His life.
“Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved His own in the world and he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1).
The Priest lays down His own life as Victim. No one takes it from Him. His hour is planned.
“This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father” (Jn 10:17–18).
And so He enters His city on Sunday on a donkey, so that He can leave His city on Friday with a cross.
We are reminded at the very beginning of the liturgy for Palm Sunday,
“Dear brethren, since the beginning of Lent until now we have prepared our hearts by penance and charitable works. Today we gather together to herald with the whole Church the beginning of the celebration of our Lord’s Paschal Mystery, that is to say, of His Passion and Resurrection. For it was to accomplish this mystery that he entered His own city of Jerusalem. Therefore, with all faith and devotion, let us commemorate the Lord’s entry into the city for our salvation, following in His footsteps, so that, being made by His grace partakers of the Cross, we may have a share also in His Resurrection and in His life” (Greeting from the Third Roman Missal, Palm Sunday Procession).
We pick up palm branches, because we are those crowds. The ones who welcome Him in triumph, after our days of fasting and penance, we welcome our Messiah. Unlike the crowds that day in Jerusalem, we know what that Messianic mission entails. We welcome Him as King knowing that His Kingdom is consummated on a Cross. But we are also the crowd that yells, “Crucify Him!” Every time I sin, I choose to reject His Messianic mission and reject the Cross. We are both the crowds that greet Him as the Son of David and the crowds that cry for His death.
Accompany Him during Holy Week – living these mysteries by participating as much as possible in the liturgical life of the Church this week. Walk with Him, both in His triumphal entry and on His way to Calvary. He told us that if we are to be like Him, we must take up our crosses. So follow Him, asking Him for the courage and grace to die with Him. To die to self, so that we can rise with Him.
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