23.1 Hosanna in the Highest.


The “Third Week”: Week Twenty-Three/Session One.

Theme: The Road to Calvary.

Our reading for today: Matthew 21: 1-11.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 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. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“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.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21: 1-11 MsgB)

And so…it begins. Palm Sunday.

That’s the proper name we church-folks call it.

In our minds, it’s a quaint little parade. Jesus is entering the Holy City, riding on a donkey. His disciples are walking alongside Him, acknowledging the crowd that has gathered for this Sunday afternoon celebration in Jerusalem. Palm branches are waving in the breeze. People are removing their outer cloaks and throwing them on the ground as a symbol of their adoration for this young rabbi who is stirring the whole nation, rallying the people for what’s to come. Here comes Messiah, blessing God’s people with healing, deliverance and wholeness. The appreciative crowd is ecstatic. Their high expectations are evident as they chant and cheer with one voice.

Hosanna to the Son of David.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest heaven!

The Sunday before Passover. 33 AD. God’s Holy City.

This day is a day of happiness and joy. The sun is shining. The stars are aligning. And for once in a long lifetime, this city, which has seen so many sad days in its long history, is enjoying one brief moment of God’s pleasure. No one, but possibly Jesus, senses the ugly underbelly of the beast that is also evident in the city on this beautiful day in Israel. But make no mistake. It’s certainly there.

Oh sure. This day has its’ share of doubters and detractors. In Luke’s gospel account of this same event, we see the leaders of the religious system of Jesus’ day, standing off to the side on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon, glaring at the scene. How dare this young whipper-snapper ride into our town, stirring the common folk to such high expectations? But far below the surface of their human dismay, the demons of hell look at this parade and are angry. Very angry, indeed.

In truth, every eye in the universe is turned toward Jerusalem at this unique moment in time. From every perspective, whether it be angels in heaven or demons in hell, this entrance by Jesus and His associates into the heart of Jerusalem is no small affair. This, my friends, is an act of war. Holy war. And what looks to us as being a peaceful parade with joyous celebration into the center of God’s city is actually just the opposite.

To use terms from World War II, this is June 6th, 1944. This is the great invasion of the Good King, landing His troops on the bloody beaches of Normandy. This is a hard slap directly in the face of God’s enemies. An aggressive act of warfare, landing the good guys right in the middle of the enemy’s turf.

And make no mistake. There will be hell to pay for this outlandish act of aggression against Satan, his forces, and all the human pride and arrogance sided with him. Oh yeah. Jesus and His friends might be whooping it up today, but by Friday, this joyous celebration will become a funeral procession where weeping and wailing prevails. Just wait and see.

So Jesus, knowing what is waiting for Him in this upcoming week, turns His attention to this present moment. He takes it all in. And even when the Pharisees come to Him and tell Him to turn the music down, He ignores their critical spirit and reminds them that no one, including Satan himself, can throw water on a God-party. When God says celebrate. We celebrate.

Hosanna to the Son of David.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest heaven!

My suggestion? As you and I prepare to enter into this “Third Week” of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, where we ponder together the long, hard sufferings and passion of our Christ; let’s begin by celebrating with Him. This is Jesus the Nazarene who is coming our way.

Let us rejoice and be glad in His coming!

My prayer: Thank You, God, for the brief foretaste You give us in Palm Sunday. Though the day was actually a day of great warfare, thank You for the reminder that despite the evil and sadness that can come into this life, You are still able to overcome that evil and celebrate Your goodness and mercy that will always trump Satan and his plans. We rejoice with You, Jesus of Nazareth. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: How can I embrace the joy and triumph of Palm Sunday in the midst of my troubled week? Like Jesus, I am tempted and tortured at times with the evil in this world, but how can I, like Jesus, look beyond that pain and suffering, embracing the joy and celebration that is mine in Christ?

So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?

Over an eight month period, we will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to join us…click here!

To go onto the next journal entry…click here.

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