Prayer for Palm Sunday
Dear Heavenly Father—I wonder what it was like for Jesus on that Palm Sunday so very long ago. All the crowds cheering and praising him. Streets crowded with followers, shouting his name, some trying to out-yell the others, so caught up in the frenzy of adoration. The donkey, just as Jesus predicted, found and brought to him so he could ride into Jerusalem as a hero. The scent of crushed palm branches heavy in the air.
And yet, Jesus must have scanned the crowd, looking at individual faces and wondering. “Perhaps that woman waving her palm branch and shouting my name—will she soon be among those shouting “Barabbas—free Barabbas—we’d rather free a robber-murderer than Jesus”? Or that man, so impressed to be near me, so full of adoration, will he be part of the crowd that screams “Crucify him! Crucify him!”. And the disciples, caught up in the scene, basking as part of Jesus’ entourage. “We know him,” they may have shouted back at the crowd, eager for Jesus’ reflected glory. “We know him well! We’re his followers!” How excited everyone was, the weather perfect, the crowds lining the street all of one mind, all intent on acknowledging Jesus and his power, his miracles, his authority.
I’ve had days like that, Lord, days when everything seemed to go so well. Praise ringing in my ears from people I cared about. “Good job!” they said, or “Sandy you scored higher than anyone else!” Or even, “No one but you could have done so well!” Words that stroked my ego, words that wrapped themselves around me and made me feel important, valued loved. But unlike you, Lord, I had no idea of what lay ahead. I never anticipated hearing, from the same people, “We’re disappointed in you, Sandy, we thought you would have done better” or “You surely let us down with that performance”. I tried, in my own mind, to question their authority or their validity, their judgment. Sometimes I took away my love, feeling they no longer earned it.
That palm strewn Sunday, with all its hoopla, all of its celebration, would lead within a few days to a dark afternoon on a hill named Golgotha. And you knew it Lord, you were perfectly aware of the events awaiting you—events that would erase this sunny day and its crowds and its adoration. You knew the agony of torture, dragging through town the very cross on which you would hang. You knew the denials and betrayals and fear that would turn the crowds against you and make them kill you.
The difference between you and me, Lord, is that you knew all of this and, with an intensity beyond my comprehension, continued to love. Continued to love those who shouted loudest and were equally intense spitting on you that same week. Loving those disciples who couldn’t stay awake and watch with you on an agonizing night of pain and fear. Loving those who claimed not to know you because they were afraid they’d suffer your fate. Loving each of us despite our failures and our on/off again relationship with you. Loved us when we didn’t love you back. If there is a message to be gained from that sunny entry into Jerusalem, a celebration like that given to Super Bowl heroes, it is love. Unrequited, undeserved, unwarranted love. Wave a palm branch and scream “Hosanna” or scream equally loud, “Crucify Him!” It’s still love.
And so, Dear Lord, I come to you on this Palm Sunday. Forgive me for the times I betray you, forgive me for my tepid love, and most of all please forgive me for failing to forgive. Remind me always your response to all the crowds—those who come to praise you and those who come to crucify you, your response is the same, “I love you”. That’s all we need to know.