Reading: Matthew 27:15-26
Verse 18: “For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.”
Today is known as both Palm and Passion Sunday. We celebrate the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus’ disciples and followers were joined by many others who cheered and praised God as Jesus entered the city, “gentle and riding on a donkey” – a symbol of peace. But the day does not end with a small, private party rejoicing in the day’s triumphal entry. No, it draws to a close with Jesus tipping over tables, declaring that the religious leaders have made the temple into a “den of robbers.” This sets the tone for the rest of the week. The tension rises and rises, culminating in what we read about today.
Pilate, like almost everyone else in power, knows that Jesus is innocent of any crime deserving even a flogging, nevermind a crucifixion. Pilate “knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.” So he tries to release Jesus. But the religious leaders are ready. They’ve assembled their crowd. Even though Pilate asks, “What crime has he committed?” the crowd continues to shout, “Crucify him!” Washing his hands of innocent blood, Pilate hands Jesus over to die.
From palms to the cross – what a journey! It is an eventful week, one with many connections. The longer journey also began with a connection. Old, dried palms became ashes that we wore on our hands or foreheads as we began Lent. Since then we’ve walked with Jesus as he ministered to the least and the lost. We’ve heard the call to live our faith inside out. And now we are called to this week, to gather and to remember the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, to be present and to soak up Jesus’ passion for all the world. It is not easy being present this week. Yet, may it be so.
Prayer: Lord God, strengthen me for the week ahead. Energize me today with the palms and the celebration. May the triumphal entry help me through the days ahead. Through it all, may I remember that Jesus is Lord. Amen.