Lent 6 (Palm Sunday) – Matthew 21:1-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            The processional Gospel from Matthew chapter 21 is read twice in the Church Year. It is first read on the First Sunday in Advent and again as we begin Holy Week. When we hear this reading in Advent, it has a general relationship to the arrival of the Lord. The specific focus is on His coming not only in the Gifts, but also in judgment on the Last Day. When we hear this reading today, it has a special relationship to Christ’s suffering and death. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is the beginning of His Passion. Nevertheless, it is quite odd because the Lord, Who otherwise carefully avoids all royal honors, now seems not to mind the exultant shouts of thousands of people as a King.

Why did Christ hold a royal entry when He set Himself toward His Passion in Jerusalem? He wanted to express Himself as the promised King of Israel and as Lord. Jesus no longer hides His divine attributes. Jesus tells two of His disciples 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. Jesus shows He is omniscient, all knowing. Jesus also shows He is omnipotent when He further says if anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away. No one is able to stand in the way of our Lord’s Passion.

Jesus must fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah from today’s Old Testament reading: Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” He enters Jerusalem to shouts of joy, but not as a conquering hero or as a revolutionary about to begin a new earthly government. He enters Jerusalem as a King ready to die for His people. He dies to pay for their sins, even the sin of not knowing the hour of His visitation.

Our Lord also wanted to show great willingness to suffer. He knew in all His earthly circumstances that He became man in order to atone for the sin of the world. The Omniscient, Omnipotent Son of God Who knew the thoughts and words of people had prophesied many times that the events of this coming week would take place.

Here we recall the many time Jesus foretells His passion to His disciples in Saint Luke’s Gospel: The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men. See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise. Even though Jesus knew what was coming, He still enters Jerusalem in triumph, as it were. The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.

Our Lord also wanted to be recognized publicly and received by His people as their King. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

As the disciples and the crowds followed Him to His Passion, so should you accompany the King of Kings and Lord of Lords with devotion as He suffers and dies for your sins. Jesus willingly took upon Himself great love for your sake. Do not fret the mocking, the whipping, the blasphemies, the lies, the agonizing way of sorrows through the streets of Jerusalem, and His bitter hours upon the cross. Hidden in the Passion of Christ is the joy of forgiveness of sins.

The palm frond in your hand is a reminder of that joyous day in Jerusalem when Jesus begins His Passion for your sake. King Christ enters Jerusalem as the unblemished Passover Lamb Whose blood redeems you. He enters the Most Holy Place once for all to make the ultimate sacrifice for sin. We cannot help but sing “Ride on, ride on in majesty! / In lowly pomp ride on to die. / Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain, / Then take, O God, Thy power and reign.”

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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