Year C Palm Sunday

[Lk. 19:28-40; Is. 50:4-7; Phil. 2:6-11; Lk. 22:14-23:56]

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday - The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The contemporaries of Jesus were well aware of the traditions of the royal entry. Triumph, was a ritual procession that was the highest honour bestowed upon a victorious general in the
ancient Roman Republic; it was the summit of a Roman aristocrat's career. In many ancient kingdoms the kings held processions to demonstrate their power and to declare the assumption of power. Sometimes Kings held processions after their victory over the enemy. On the day of his triumph, the general wore a crown of laurel and the all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal picta ("painted" toga), regalia that identified him as near-divine or near-kingly, and even was known to paint his face red. He rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome in unarmed procession with his army, captives, and the spoils of his war.

The contemporaries of Jesus were waiting for a long time to welcome a King, who would free them from slavery and establish a new kingdom. Through the History of Israel there rose a leader whenever they were in need. These leaders fed them with supernatural food like Moses did by Getting Manna for the starving people during exile. They were wise and their wisdom was unmatched like that of the Wisdom of Solomon. They were able to defend the people against their enemies like Samson. Stories of their heroes were fresh and alive among the Israelites. In Jesus they found all these qualities. He fed the hungry miraculously. He drove out demons and they fled in his presence. He raised the dead from the dead. With his wise answers he silenced his enemies. He showed compassion to the weak and the suffering.  So they had no doubt that He was the promised King.
But Jesus entered Jerusalem, not in a royal chariot drawn by horses, but on a young ass, covered, not with rich cloths, but with the well-worn robes of the disciples. In this way, as the Evangelists John and Matthew tell us, the sayings of the Prophets were fulfilled: Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass (Matt. 21:5).
Christian theologians believe that the symbolism is captured prophetically in the Old Testament: Zechariah 9:9 "The Coming of Zion's King – See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey", which is quoted in the Gospels. It suggests that Jesus was declaring he was the King of Israel, to the anger of the Sanhedrin.
As the Saviour rode down the road toward the capital city, two throngs of people converged upon him – a massive crowd coming out of the city; another group following him (Mt. 21:9; Mk. 11:9). These were mostly disciples who had been awed by the effect of the Lord's miracles – especially the recent resurrection of Lazarus (Lk. 19:37; Jn. 12:17).
Some "paved" the road with their garments; others with layers of leaves, at least some of which were from palm trees (Jn. 12:13), hence the expression "Palm Sunday." Spreading garments before a dignitary was a symbol of submission (see 2 Kgs. 9:13). Palm branches were employed also as token of victory (Suetonius, Caligula, 32). Some Jewish coins from the first century had palm leaf engravings with the accompanying inscription, "the redemption of Zion." Note the "palm" symbolism that is portrayed in the book of Revelation (7:9). The Jewish disciples doubtless were expressing the hope that Jesus would be the one to lead them to victory over their oppressor (Rome).
But the meek and humble entry of Jesus Christ in to Jerusalem was a symbol of peace and humility, for it represented a complete contrast to the triumphal processions of kings at that time. The way in which Jesus entered Jerusalem showed that His Kingdom was not of this world.
Jesus's message was to preach the Kingdom of God. This is the gospel He brought: the good news to all men. Mankind sees no need for change of government. People believe that having the liberty to do what they want means they are truly free. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Second, it will have the power to enforce God's law. We live in a society where the "law is slacked" (Habakkuk 1:4). Even human law is largely unenforced. Many people make a living out of finding loopholes in the law. But it won't be that way in God's Kingdom. That Kingdom will come with power (Mark 9:1). At the same time, God's government will display true, outgoing concern for the good and well-being of its subjects.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem a crowd followed him with great hope and trust in Him. Today we follow Jesus with the same hope and trust as members of His kingdom. Palm Sunday reminds us of our role as the soldiers of Jesus to establish his kingdom of peace.
History has many inspiring incidents of sacrifice of soldiers. Trapped in a trench, under heavy machine gun fire during a battle in France in July 1918, Pvt. Nicholas Palermo decided to sacrifice his own life to save others.
Facing three machine gun teams, Palermo left the trench, and was able to take out the German soldiers manning two of the guns before being killed — an action that later rewarded him with the Silver Star for valor during battle.
"He decides on his own and goes over the top at the German machine guns," said Palermo's nephew, also named Nicholas Palermo, of North Haven. "He wipes out one of the machine guns as a hail of bullets goes by. He goes to the second, more hail of bullets goes by and he gets hit a couple times, but knocks that one out. He goes for a third, and almost puts it out of operation, but too many bullets hit him and he got killed."
Lying about his age, Palermo enlisted at 16 and was assigned to the 16th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Division.
He was only 18 when he died.
We are the soldiers of Jesus Kingdom. Now it is our turn to do everything that we can to the establishment of His Kingdom.