Today marks the beginning of the Holy Week or the great doorway to the Holy Week as the Pope emeritus, Benedict xvi, described it. This day is known also as Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. As Palm Sunday we are reminded of the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. It was a triumphant entry because it was marked with great pomp and pageantry as the people spontaneously gave our Lord a “red carpet” reception. Significantly this triumphant entry was actually an entry into suffering and death by crucifixion though at the end there was a rising from the dead!
Before this entrance we are told that our Lord asked two of his disciples to go into the village facing Bethphage and they would see a donkey tied to a tree and they should untie it and bring it to him. And should anyone question them they should say that the Master needed it urgently. This directive which fulfills Zecharia (9:9) gives us a lesson we need to ponder upon. The donkey represents our souls that God need urgently. The coming of Jesus Christ into our context is to untie our souls from the tree of sin. The tree around which the donkey was tied reminds us of the tree at the middle of the Garden of Eden in Genesis (3:3) where Adam and Eve contracted the sin of disobedience which befell humanity. Christ our Lord came to undo the power of that tree and replace it with the tree of redemption namely the Cross of Calvary.
Attentive to the foregoing we understand that the Lord has need for our souls that have been tied securely on the stake of sin and damnation. He has come to deliver our souls from its prison of abandonment to the tree of sin into the Jerusalem of redemption. It is true that our Lord Jesus Christ entered triumphantly into Jerusalem, it is however good to note that the triumph goes beyond that particular physical entrance. The triumph culminated in the death on the Cross. The entry began the triumph but the death concluded the triumph. But we should note that between the entry and the Cross there was suffering. When our souls are liberated from the stake of sin we should not be afraid to go through the route of suffering as that would be leading us into the total victory.
After the triumphant entry with Palms and the singing of hosanna came the passion of the Lord. We can fully appreciate and understand the Lord’s passion on three centres of gravity. These represent the three important places and instances where our Lord suffered under three different hands.
1. The Gethsemane Passion
At Gethsemane our Lord Jesus Christ suffered in the hands of Satan. In Luke 4:13 we are meant to understand that after the temptation, the devil left Jesus Christ and waited for an opportune time. Gethsemane represents that opportune moment for the devil to attempt at stopping the redemptive work of Christ. The depressing and agonizing monologue our Lord had in the garden showed clearly that he was troubled and deeply distressed (Mark 14:33). In the account of Matthew (26:37) our Lord said that he is sorrowful unto death.
At the above point, he was feeling the impact of the load of our sins and the devil was at hand to discourage him from carrying the load of our sins. Often we get “beautiful suggestions” from the devil on our way to do the will of God. Gethsemane actually means “oil press”. It thus appears that the load of our sins was pressed upon him that it seemed to be too much for him to bear. No wonder then he asked if the cup could pass, but let the will of God be done.
2. The Gabbatha Passion
At Gabbatha our Lord suffered in the hands of sinners. The gospel of Matthew (26:45) confirms this when Jesus asked the apostles with him: “are you sleeping? The hour has come and the son of man is being delivered into the hands of sinners”.
At Gabbatha as Isaiah (53:3ff) prophesied he was betrayed, deserted, beaten, rejected, mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns and condemned to die by those he came to untie from the tree of sin.
3. The Golgotha Passion
At Golgotha our Lord Jesus Christ suffered in the hands of divinity; he suffered in the hands of his own father. But this suffering is unlike the preceding ones because it is the kind that is salvific. It was the kind of suffering that was most needful for our redemption. The kind of suffering that St. Paul recommended to the followers of Christ (Philippians 1:29).
At Golgotha God dealt with sin fully and finally in the body of his own son. At Golgotha our Lord Jesus Christ suffered in his full humanity and did not count on his equality with God (Phil.2:7) At Golgotha the Father forsook the Son (Mark 15:34) and allowed him to taste the bitter gall of death so that humanity can be saved and be reunited with the Father once more.
With these three instances of suffering we understand that suffering is part of our human reality. In life we meet various forms of suffering. Sometimes we tend to think that God had forsaken us. The truth is that some forms of suffering we pass through are meant to help us get to where God wants us to be. Whenever we see ourselves going through some forms of suffering let us remember that our Lord Jesus Christ went that road but came out victorious; what God has prepared for you is more than what you think you are going through at the moment (1 Cor. 2:9).
We are called within this week to make an active connection with our Lord Jesus Christ. We see from the event of today that there were praises followed by condemnation. “Hosanna to the Son of David and Crucify him” were parallel statements coming from the crowd. Do not jump on the praises from people (the crowd) at the entry point because they may also formulate your judgment and condemnation at the end of the road.
I respectfully wish you a wholly Holy Week.