Read Matthew 26:36-46
For those that abide in some sort of lectionary discipline, there are usually two courses for this Sunday that precedes the First Sunday of Easter. That liturgical dichotomy is the celebration of the palms or the passion of the Christ.
Palms or Passion?
Is it the triumphal entry as King or the Suffering Servant?
Do we focus on the palm lined highway or the painful road to the cross?
Maybe, sometimes, just every once in a while, we should consider both, and even more. But let’s start with palms.
This week that we now call Holy Week, begins with palms.
Palms come from trees without branches.
Palm leaves or fronds symbolize victory.
Palms are evergreen.
A road lined with palms would look like someone rolled out the green carpet.
The palm in the desert is the symbol of life.
Places such as Palm Springs make us think of resorts and retreats.
Palms denote status and comfort and even peace.
In the world of life experience, purpose is often the cohesive, the organizing principle, and the multiplier.
A life expended with purpose is a life lived beyond its potential.
Purpose gets you out of bed in the morning.
Purpose causes you to say, Good Morning, Lord, instead of Good Lord, it’s morning.
Purpose gets you to school.
Purpose gets you to work.
Purpose gets you talking with God.
Purpose gets you up the hill.
Purpose lets the insult roll off while focus is maintained.
Purpose adjusts the sails when the wind changes.
Purpose cooks Ramen when the paycheck isn’t enough for the water bill.
Purpose crosses the minefield to save a friend.
Purpose gives insight into our Heavenly Father.
Purpose gives us insight into ourselves.
Purpose unlocks our gifts and talents.
Purpose gives us permission to say no to things we don’t need to do.
Purpose brings us to abundance—not in stuff or money—but in life.
Purpose purges poverty.
Those who live without purpose endure a cruel type of poverty.
This form of poverty just passes the time.
This form of poverty sees only immediate needs.
Character atrophies in those living in the poverty of purpose.
Commitment is foreign to anyone without purpose.
The power to effect desired change is irrelevant if there is no desire.
Money is illusive.
There is no Sabbath to take in a life without purpose.
Passion detests apathy.
Passion abhors ambivalence.
Passion presses on when there is nothing left.
Passion suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
Passion does not stop to question purpose. It presses on knowing the purpose comes from God.
Passion gives up self.
Passion and purpose wed and become unstoppable.
From before man was placed upon this earth, Jesus knew what he must do to create the relationship between the crown of God’s creation and God himself.
Our three-in-one God knew that a redeemed man was more valuable than one never tested, trialed, condemned, and rescued, but it would take both purpose and passion to bring about this special creature.
Humans couldn’t handle it. We couldn’t be flesh and complete on our own. You can spend your life trying to figure out why the two seem incompatible, but I doubt you will get the complete answer until the age to come.
Why does sacrifice require blood?
Why must life be sacrificed?
Why were we worth it?
Jesus was just hours away from what would be one of the most detestable and essential chapters of human history.
Jesus was still on an emotion high from the meal he had just enjoyed with his closest friends.
Jesus was exhausted.
Jesus was so close to accomplishing his mission.
Jesus knew human pain and agony.
Jesus knew he must do this thing.
Knowing all things, Jesus hoped he had missed something and there was another way.
Jesus was with the closest of his closest friends.
Jesus was alone as they fell asleep at the wheel.
Jesus knew that the time to glorify the Father was near. His glory would be in fulfilling this mission.
Jesus knew that the time for his betrayal was even nearer.
Jesus would fulfill the plan made before the earth began, but a plan doesn’t get you to the cross.
A plan doesn’t endure false accusations.
A plan doesn’t turn the other cheek to a slap in the face.
A plan doesn’t surrender its own life as a sacrificial lamb.
A plan does not endure the scorn of leaders in place only by the will of the Planner himself.
A plan does not endure a crown of thorns.
A plan does not endure physical torture.
A plan does not suffer the cross when there is no crime.
A plan does not suffer the sins of the world upon innocent flesh.
A plan cannot utter, “Forgive them. They know not what they do.”
But purpose with passion will cry tears of blood.
Purpose with passion will endure false accusations in order to get to the cross.
Purpose with passion will bleed from the thorns or the whip and not cry out for the Father to put an end to it all.
Purpose with passion will take the sins of the world upon the only innocent flesh that could bear them.
Purpose with passion will go to the cross.
Purpose with passion will forgive the executioners.
Purpose with passion took away the sin of the world.
Purpose with passion endured separation from the Father, if only for a short moment in eternity.
Purpose with passion is the only reason that we do not stand condemned today.
Jesus knew that he had to go to the cross. There was no other way. We cannot blame the disciples for falling asleep. They were like travels in the passenger seat. If you are not the driver, it is so easy to nod off.
Jesus was the only one who knew what was next.
He was the only one who knew that his purpose and passion were required to fulfill the plan of God.
Jesus came to reveal the divine heart to us—God loved the world so much! A walk down the primrose path would not suffice. He must suffer. He must die. He must surrender his life as a sacrifice for undeserving humankind.
He knew that this was the plan all along but that did not make it any easier. His passion and purpose were essential to our preservation.
We talk about the suffering of the Christ, but we are careful to do it only in an academic discussion. It doesn’t make good dinner conversation. It doesn’t go with the flow of the playoff game on television. It’s not something that you throw in while looking at the pictures of the grandkids.
But it is at the heart of every ounce and breath and meter of life that we know. Absent the passion and purpose that compelled Christ to continue to the cross, we would still be lost.
We would not know the joy that so many of us cherish.
We would stand condemned and far removed from our Creator when God’s heart desires us to enjoy him fully and be in his presence.
Jesus who is God and King and Messiah chose to continue to the cross and be Savior as well. He chose to be an Unblemished Lamb for us. He chose love but love required all of his purpose and passion to die for us on an old rugged cross.
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best,
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above,
To bear it to dark Calvary.
In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine
Such a wonderful beauty I see
For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sanctify me.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
It's shame and approach gladly bear;
Then He'll call me someday to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I'll share.
So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down,
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.
It was more than just God’s plan. It was his purpose and passion for us that caused that plan to be one that took all of our sin and bore all of the suffering so we could live.
As we move towards a celebration of resurrection, consider this week just how much God loves you. Consider that you have been at the heart of his purpose and fueling his passion since before humankind began.
This passion for you was always a part of his plan, but this plan was fulfilled in the sacrifice on the cross. His purpose for us becomes known in his plans and passion. They are good plans and his passion is intense.
God loves you. He loves you very much.
Let’s spend this week—a week that begins with palms—trying to grasp just how great God’s love is.
Let’s spend this week—a week kicked off with a parade for a King, a path lined with palms, and shouts of Hosanna—just being overwhelmed by the plan, purpose, and passion that would take Jesus to the cross to die for our sins.
Let’s spend this week knowing that God’s plan for our salvation has been completed. It is finished. The work on the cross is done.
If we will do that this week; we will be ever so prepared to celebrate resurrection on the Sunday to come.