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Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

28th MAR 2021

Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church

Budapest, Hungary

Palm Sunday

28 March 2021

Early twentieth-century German Scripture scholar, Martin Kähler, once famously referred to the Gospel of Mark -- from which our Passion Gospel account this morning is taken -- as a Passion Narrative with a very long introduction. The term, Passion Narrative, of course refers to any story of Jesus’ final hours and death. And among scholars at least, Kähler’s description of Mark’s Gospel -- a Passion Narrative with a very long introduction -- has stuck. Everything that comes before the Passion story in the Gospel of Mark – from Jesus’ Baptism by John at the Jordan to his parables and miracles -- is in a larger sense preparatory to the telling of our Lord’s suffering and death on Calvary.

Which is where we find ourselves this morning. We enter into Mark’s Passion Narrative with the well-known story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the back of a borrowed colt, that is, a young donkey; or horse, if you prefer. While it was apparently the custom in the ancient world – indeed in some places still is the custom – for triumphant rulers to enter their victorious city or state in an ornate chariot or limousine, surrounded by hangers-on and parading their conquered loot and slaves along the way as a sign of divine favour, there is nothing in ancient history comparable to Jesus’ arrival at the Gates of Jerusalem.

Alas poor Jesus, it seems, could not so much as afford to purchase and mount his own beast of burden -- much less a chariot -- as he entered upon his spiritual conquest of Jerusalem. He leads no triumphant army into the City but rather a rag-tag band of -- let’s face it -- lukewarm followers; one of whom will shortly betray him, while the leader of the company will soon enough deny even knowing him. No Roman general or emperor -- no contemporary tin-pot dictator -- would be in the least impressed. And, Jesus’ own moment of glory – if one can even call it that – is short-lived indeed.

Yet for all that, it is his journey – not that of conquering Roman armies -- that we remember today. It is his journey which we as Christians some two thousand years later are here today to share -- not in Rome or Jerusalem particularly -- but quite literally from one corner of the world to the other. Jesus’ donkey ride into the Holy City has after all changed everything. And his journey soon enough becomes the Way of the Cross. Jesus “humbled himself,” as Paul tells us in our second reading this morning from his Letter to the Philippians, even “to the point of death” on a Cross. In some sense, the Way of the Cross is our way too.

I entered the Holy City of Jerusalem once decades ago while on a pre-paid, package tour of the Holy Land. As our tour bus pulled up to the City’s Gates and stopped, the gruff Israeli guide barked at us. “Get out and walk,” he ordered. “No one rides into the Holy City.” Presumably not since Jesus, I thought to myself as I got out and walked. This Holy Week, we once again enter into the Holy City of Jerusalem with our Lord, walking as pilgrims of faith, bearing not booty or prizes of war or of our own enterprise but rather our burden of fear and sin in what has become for many of us a season of discontent and desolation.

Yet we remain Gospel people -- part of scholar Martin Kähler’s very long introduction to the Passion narrative; very long introduction to our redemption. For, our Lord’s story is ours as well. His life is our life; his journey, our journey; his death, well, our life. If our Lord humbled himself, as Paul describes, to the point of death, he also offers us, his people, the hope and promise of a new creation and a renewed life, remade in the image of Christ himself. That is the journey we are on.

So, my friends, get out and walk.


The Rev. Dr. Frank Hegedűs

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