From Palm Sunday to . . .

Luke 19:28-40 (Luke 22:14–23:56) Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem: Palm Sunday. 
Luke’s account is a wee bit different from John’s: no palms, for one thing.  But also, no crowds coming out from Jerusalem to greet Jesus, just the disciples – meaning The Twelve, the women, and followers of Jesus who have been with him on his journey from Galilee.  Do the lack of palms and adoring Jerusalemites rob Luke’s version of meaning and impact?  Not in the least.  And, here’s why…
In the account of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) we are told, “They [Jesus, Moses and Elijah] appeared in glory and were speaking of his [Jesus’] departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (vs. 31).  The word translated as “departure” is exodus.  Given the presence of Moses, one immediately thinks of the exodus of the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt, and toward the Promised Land.  Yet, as I have mentioned previously, Jesus’ exodus was not to a promised land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:7-8) but rather to the Holy City – for Jesus, the city of destiny.  And with him went his loyal band of brothers and sisters.  We have a word for a band of people engaged in a journey toward a holy place: pilgrims.  So, when Luke gives this account, it is of a group of pilgrims, full of joy and expectation:

As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole   multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen (vs. 37).

I don’t know about you, but I can associate myself more readily with that group of travelers, celebrating their arrival at their destination, than I can a group of city dwellers who somehow, mysteriously, seem to know who this man Jesus is.  And so, in the singing of the hymn of praise each Sunday – alongside my fellow pilgrims at SAKLC – I imagine myself coming down the Mount of Olives; the Holy City before me.  For, after all, we Christians are they who (as James Montgomery’s great hymn puts it) nightly pitch our tents a day’s march nearer home. Why do the disciples praise God so joyfully?  Because of the “deeds of power that they had seen” (vs. 37).  These “deeds” are found throughout Luke’s gospel:  healings, exorcisms, feedings, resurrections, etc.  These deeds add to the sense of immanence in Luke’s gospel account, epitomized by the recurring word, today. Today… a savior is born (2:11); … this scripture is fulfilled (4:21); …we have seen strange things (5;26); … I must stay at your house (19:5); … salvation has come to this house (19;9); … you will be with me in paradise (23:43).  This sense of urgency and these deeds of power are for the disciples indicators of liberation from sin, death, and futility.  Or, to put it another way, and in the words of Luke, salvation.  That, surely, is cause to cry out “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”  The fulfilment of Zechariah’s promise that God would establish peace for Jerusalem; the coming of one in God’s name; and the song of the angels:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!  Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord (Ps. 118:26).

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace… (Luke 2:14).

This is more than destiny; this is divine necessity, as one scholar puts it.  That is why Jesus tells the Pharisees who ask him to silence the disciples, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (vs. 40). And so, Palm Sunday gives way to the Sunday of the Passion, and to Holy Week.  For, it is in these words of Luke (19:28-40) that we see “the inauguration of the period of the passion,” as Joseph Fitzmyer so powerfully puts it.