Lent, O Lent, Where Didst Thou Go?
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – the beginning of Holy Week! With Easter only a week away, it seems as though Lent just flew by this year, even though there are a few days left to go (Lent officially ends when the Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins this Thursday). Yes, as we get older it seems that time moves faster and faster. But what really made it seem to slip by this year for us was our vacation in Florida. While Marcia and I were away from our routines at the parish and chapel for the first two weeks of Lent, it was like a balancing act to maintain our Lenten disciplines and family celebrations. Anyway, we are ready to “enter” into this Holy Week. Speaking of entry…today we commemorate and celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In today’s Gospel reading at the procession with palms we read:
As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:37-39)
Imagine this scene: at the descent of the Mount of Olives is a very large crowd, described as “the whole multitude of disciples” of Jesus. How many were there? Hundreds? Thousands? We can only estimate the total, but since this entry into Jerusalem is near the end of Jesus’ three-year public ministry, it is reasonable to believe that the crowd was very large. Most of them had likely heard Jesus preach and had been captivated by his teaching and call to follow him. Others in the crowd, no doubt were many who had experienced his healing and deliverance, along with many of their family and friends.
As the approaching crowd comes closer,it appears that some are throwing their garments on the road in front of the colt; others cut branches from the trees and lay them on the road, expressions of homage to a king in procession. As the multitude draws even nearer we hear the sound of loud voices. Voices singing, shouting, rejoicing and praising God, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Surprisingly, among those in the crowd are some Pharisees. What are they doing in the crowd? Have they also joined in the choruses of praise to Jesus the King? Why then did some of them say to Jesus, “Rebuke your disciples” (i.e. “Tell them to shut up!”)? The Pharisees were well-educated in the scriptures, and they immediately recognized the significance of what was happening right before their eyes: the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy telling of the coming Messiah:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
However, since most of the Pharisees rejected Jesus as the Messiah, they could not accept the authenticity of this fulfillment of messianic prophecy. So, they attempted to silence the disciples who were praising Jesus. Today, there are many who reject Jesus and dictate that the multitudes who worship him keep their “religion” private and silent in the public square. While we cannot, and do not impose the faith in our post-Christian culture, we in turn must, with all of our hearts and energy, boldly propose the One who is the truth and the life and the way. And to do that requires we follow him into Jerusalem, suffer and die with him that we might rise to new life on Easter. Will it be us or the stones that cry out?
Have a blessed Holy Week and joyous Easter!