PALM Sunday is day one of Jesus’ crucial journey to the Cross of Calvary – the beginning of God’s victorious journey to give renewed life over eternal death to human kind.
This was the Palm Sunday message at Saint Barnabas Cathedral delivered by Reverend Dr Atkin Zaku on Sunday morning as hundreds gathered for the Holy Eucharistic Service to commemorate Palm Sunday.
Reverend Dr Zaku based his message on the Passion Gospel in Matthew Chapter 26:14-75 and Chapter 27:66.
According to Reverend Dr Zaku, Jesus is heading to Jerusalem for a big Jewish celebration to commemorate Israel’s freedom from the Egyptian slavery – the Passover Festival.
He said the Jerusalem journey was to begin one of the most crucial moment in Jesus’ life as it was to be the place for Jesus to make his final decision of either to remain in this world or to offer himself for the Cross of Calvary – the cup Jesus referred to.
“…three years prior to today’s Jerusalem, the same Jerusalem was the first place of his greatest temptation before entering ministry. Jesus was told ‘to fall from the city tower with angels safely holding him down to the ground’.
“Today the same Jerusalem is going to be the final place of discernment, either to finally finish the work God has entrusted him, and finally to say truthfully at the end…‘it is finished’.
“Both temptations were call for divine powers again to be repeated by the other criminal on his side…‘aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us’.
Unfortunately, Dr Zaku said the blindness of the eyes to see; the deafness of the ears to hear; hardness of the mind to understand, and the closeness of the heart to love have been contributing factors – disabling full recognition of the meaning of the Cross.
“This is evidenced through the people who joined the journey to Jerusalem singing a similar contemporary chorus “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. At the same time, the red carpet in the forms of cloaks and branches were laid on the pathway for Jesus to ride on.
“For these people, this was a political journey where Jesus was to be enthroned as a political king and military king.
“Jesus was then the king who would overthrow oppressive government and overtake extra miles of kingdoms and territories.
“Jesus was to be the economic king whom Jerusalem awaits to enthrone in the kingly palace; crowned with gold and silver, and robed with kingly purple robes, and of course living in luxury with food and wine in abundance served by servants and slaves.
“Jesus was expected to break down current political hierarchies, pulling down and stripping off kings and rulers and conquering opposition and enemy armies,” Dr Zaku said.
He said these people failed miserably to interpret the situation of that time.
“…the people have failed to understand what has been echoed strongly by Zechariah (9:9) when he said, ‘rejoice, rejoice, people of Zion. Shout for joy, you people of Jerusalem. Look your king is coming to you. He comes triumphant and victorious, but humble and riding on a donkey’.”
He said Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem was God’s journey in contrast to the human journey.
“It was a journey of God reconciling humankind; it was God’s journey bringing righteousness to humankind. It was God’s journey giving renewed life over eternal death to humankind.
“The Jerusalem journey therefore was the very beginning of God’s victorious journey, bringing the wholeness of salvation through the ugliness, brokenness and deathness of Jesus. This is to say that Jesus’ showed in total completeness of his willingness in sacrificing his life, even to the point of being torn apart mentally and physically,” Dr Zaku said.
He said Jesus knew very well that he was riding on weapons of spears and swords veiled by the cloaks and branches – the very enemy of peace.
“Veiled also under the cloaks and branches were the weapons of power and status – the very enemy of humility and ordinariness. And veiled under the cloaks and branches were the weapons of hate and greed – the very enemy of sharing and unity. And upon the cloaks and branches Jesus rode on the moving Cross – the very symbol of Love,” Dr Zaku said.
On this Palm Sunday, he said each of us should also see ourselves as travellers who joined the Jerusalem crowd.
“All of us had our share of the spear and swords under the cloaks and branches for which Jesus rides on.
“Are we sure we are not hiding insulting words under the cloaks and branches that Jesus walks on? Are we sure we are without the weapons of power and status under the cloaks and branches? Are we sure we are without the weapons of hate and greed hidden under the cloaks and branches?
“Failing to see these, may lead us to be just like the Jerusalem journeyed-crowd who were blind to see true peace, humility, sharing and unity in Jesus.
“And finally are we not hiding the Cross under the cloaks and branches in readiness to slaughter Love?
“Jesus did arrive to the destination – Jerusalem – the final mission, fully accomplished at the right place at the right time by people whom he willingly died for – a confirmation later said… ‘Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’.
“Likewise this is our mission this Holy Week. A mission that touches the very heart of God, the heart of the church, the hearts of people and the very fabric of nature. This is sacrifice. This is obedience and above all this is love,” Dr Zaku concluded.