From exaltation to rejection
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Year A (Matt 26:14-27:66)
Alay Kapwa Sunday, April 9, 2017
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
AS Jesus decided to move toward Jerusalem one week before the Passover celebration, his disciples were jubilant. And when both the people of Jerusalem and the many thousands of pilgrims joined hands in giving the prophet from Nazareth an enthusiastic reception, the disciples felt sure that finally Jesus was going to openly proclaim that he was the awaited Messiah, and that he would have been crowned king of Israel.
But in Jesus’ mind, the decision to enter Jerusalem in such an “official” manner had a very different aim. He had a better Kingdom to proclaim and establish than a temporal reign. His mission was to dethrone Satan, and to establish the sovereignty of God in the hearts of all. Jesus knew that the moment had come for the fulfillment of the most important stage in the Father’s plan: the redemption of sinful mankind through his sacrificial death.
He was fully aware of the very high price he would have to pay. Yet, he did not back off. On the contrary, he took the decisive step of entering the Holy City in such a provocative manner, as a sign of his determination to do the Father’s will. The following days, he would already be lashing not at the Romans, but at the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. (See for instance, Mt 23.)
Clearly, Jesus was not trying to be popular with the “authorities” who could have supported his bid for power. Like in the episode of the temptation in the desert, he preferred to be the Messiah of God, rather than the temporal messiah expected by people who have no time for a “spiritual kingdom.” He chose to be the humble servant of all, rather than a victorious and arrogant king of this world. (See Mt 20:26-27 and Lk 22:26.)
Such an attitude could not meet the approval of glory-minded and power-addicted people like Judas and those cast in the same mould. Feeling disillusioned, they rejected Jesus disdainfully, as a “useless messiah.”
Jesus’ determination to remain faithful to God’s plan turned the tide against him. It turned the crowds against him, especially through the crafty manipulation orchestrated by the Jewish authorities. That was how the joyful shouts of “Hosanna!” turned into a thunderous demand that Jesus be crucified; the gentle palm branches waved in welcome turned into the merciless scourges that plowed his body, and into the nails that pierced his hands and feet.
What about us? Shall we shut him out of our lives as a “disappointing messiah,” or shall we accept him as the embodiment of right priorities, and as the only bearer of God’s salvation? The first choice would associate us with Judas and the likes of him. The second choice would place us among those who open their hearts in gratitude to Christ as their Lord and Savior. With this second option we would declare our readiness to stand by him to the very end, no matter what the cost. This is the “JESUS OPTION.”