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March 28, 2021: Palm Sunday


“The Glory of His Humility”

Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 31:9-15; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 11:1-11

Bishop Ariel P. Santos

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week which commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. When the people shouted their praise, they put their garments and the palm branches on the road. Palm branches symbolize victory that the people anticipated because of the Messiah that God sent to them.

During that week, there were two processions into Jerusalem. One was of Jesus, and the other was the entrance of the governor of Judea who at that time was Pontius Pilate. Pilate was there not because he was sympathetic to the Jews and to their Feast of the Passover, but to control the crowd as hundreds of thousands were present every year and the Feast of Passover which commemorated the freedom and the liberation of the Israelites from their enemies.

In Jesus’ time, the thinking of revolution was thick in the air. They have found Jesus and they have been wanting Him to be king for three years and He was elusive. Now was the time, and Pilate had to be there to make sure that the crowd did not do anything untoward and subversive. However, when Pilate entered Jerusalem, he was astride on a big war horse. He had his full armor on, with a big sword in his hand and a shield and was flanked with chariots where behind him was horsemen. It was a display of power, military might, and it was intimidating and formidable. It sent one message: if they get crossed, they will end up on the cross. In the eyes of the world, it was a picture of strength, power, glory and dignity.

Then comes Jesus, a peasant from Galilee, claiming to be a prophet, and they hailed Him as the Messiah, the Deliverer as He was riding on a donkey. During Passover, people went to Jerusalem on foot and only big names entered with an entourage and on chariots. Jesus entered with some kind of dignity, but also He looked ridiculous. It was probably a comical picture that put doubts in the hearts and minds of those who were praising Him to be the Messiah that would deliver Him.

The disciples didn’t understand Jesus' purpose, but Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Jesus’ passion is glorious. Real glory is not seen in the intimidating façade that the world projects. It is not Hollywood glitter, influence, money, fame which is the most powerful force in the universe but rather, it is what Jesus taught us: humility, service, compassion, love, mercy, and kindness; and ultimately, it is the giving of one's life for the sake of another. Jesus had Divine power and what He has freely accepted was injustice, pain, humiliation, abandonment and ultimately death on the cross and His obedience. All put together, they all add up to glory.

The people praised Him though they may have been confused and in their strong desire to have a deliverer, they praised Him on Palm Sunday. They denounced Him when He got arrested and got convicted. The people thought, as a criminal, how could He be their Messiah? There adoration turned to condemnation and they denounced Him for they thought He let them down. He is no Joshua or David, and He was no match to Pilate. People understood might and power for what the world teaches us – power, money, military force, fame and others.

To the people in Jerusalem, the horse was picture of military might. The horse was a war asset. Kings in the Old Testament put their trust in horses but God says not to do so; and He does not delight in the might of the horse or the legs of a man. Truth is, in the Old Testament, never did the horses, even once, bring victory to the Israelites. What brought them victory was their obedience to God. Like the Palm Sunday people, they trusted in these things. Like the Psalmist said, “A horse is false hope for victory, so don’t put your trust in it but in God.”

Isaiah31:1 says, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel nor seek the Lord.” Psalm 20:7 says, “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.” Even if it doesn’t make sense that the Messiah was riding on a donkey and not on a horse, we still trust in His Name.

There was this powerful and well-known military commander in the 4th century before Christ, named Alexander the Great, who built a huge empire from Greece through Israel, through the Middle East, and to India at age 32. He was celebrated and he had a horse that was also popular that it even had its own tomb. His contemporary was a prophet named Zechariah. Zechariah knew who Alexander the Great was because Judea was also part of the conquest of the latter. Aware of him, Zechariah said in his book in chapter 9 verses 9-10 of what a true king is: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; and the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; and His dominion will be from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Zechariah says that real power is humility and he prophesied Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. True divine power opposes violence, the chariots, the bows and spears. In chapter four, he says, “Messiah will reign not by military might but by God’s Spirit.” The Christmas song says that Jesus’ law is love, and His gospel is peace. He is the Prince of peace and He will speak peace to the nation. His dominion will be from the ends of the earth.

The worldly kings lord it over; the King of kings humbly serves. Jesus shows us how to reign with Him. He obeyed God to His own hurt. He said, “My soul is troubled, but not My will but Your will be done." Jesus knew God’s will and His mission, and it is glorious. Glory sometimes requires us to say “yes” to God even if it is inconvenient, painful, and even if it will hurt and humiliate us. We know that God's ways lead to glory.

Courage is not the absence of fear but continuing to do what is right and to do what is God’s will despite. False courage is denial where fear is a defense mechanism. Everyone gets afraid; it is a natural reason when life is threatened but it is not cowardice. Courage is not the absence of fear but obeying God despite the fear, realizing we’ve been equipped to face the difficulty. Fear is a reaction for a threat to life. In other words, courage is confidence in God’s ability at work in us. Cowardice is giving in to the fear and walking away from God's will, doing our own thing because it is too hard to obey God's will.

It is easier to be in full armor, to ride on a warhorse and crush them than to absorb their violence and forgive. It is difficult to forgive the undeserving offender, and to bless our persecutor but this is God's will. This is the Cross, this is Holy Week. This is why we wave our palm branches because it is a symbol of the victory of the Cross. It means that we believe in Jesus’ way of humble service, not in Pontius Pilate of wielding the sword and threatening people. This is how the King of kings reigns and how we’ll reign with Him. We believe in Christ's humble way.

The ‘old world’ is characterized by: horsemen, swords, military heraldry. The ‘old world’ is passing away; we are now in the new world where God’s will be done and we live in this. Jesus said that this is the glory. Christ in you, following His will, is the hope of glory. Following Him is the way to glory.

I always share this prayer which is prayed in the beginning of Holy Week, “Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first He suffered pain, and entered not into glory before He was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace ..."

This is what God ordained; this is His will; this is what we will follow because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.

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