The older I get, the harder it is to haul myself out of the house and into a pew on Palm Sunday. It’s not that I’m opposed to celebrating the triumphal entry or going outside and marching around waving palms in broad daylight on city streets. No. I’m fine with all of that, and I actually enjoy the pageantry.
But as the years accumulate behind me, all that glory, laud, and honor starts to feel a little hollow on Palm Sunday, because you know that this is not going to end well. After the palms comes the Passion narrative. In less than an hour people are going to be shouting “Crucify him!” and there will be machinations and treachery and just plain human meanness and weakness. The cruelty won’t even stop once they’ve got him on the cross. The soldiers, the passersby, and the thieves crucified beside Jesus taunt him. It’s a truly wrenching service in which a joyful crowd turns into an vicious mob, Barabbas is set free and Jesus dies. And it all happens so quickly.
For me, Palm Sunday is one of the most depressing Sundays of the year. The story confirms most of the worst of what we know to be true about humanity. It rings uncomfortably true.
So why go? Why not just skip it this year?
Because I don’t want to be one of those people who would let Jesus go to Jerusalem by himself. Because I can’t say “What a friend we have in Jesus” if I’m not willing to be a friend. Because being sad and uncomfortable is a small thing in comparison to the sacrifice and the gift.
What language shall I borrow
To thank thee, dearest Friend,
For this thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me thine for ever;
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love to thee.