On Palm Sunday I am normally focused on the joyful aspect, the prefiguring of Christ’s eventual return in glory:
“And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanns in the highest!'” (Matthew 21:9 ESV)
But in our current troubled times, I am dwelling more on what follows, the shadow of the Last Judgment:
“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matt. 21:12, 13)
We are elsewhere warned not to glibly interpret calamities as specific judgments on others, but take them as warnings for ourselves:
“Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you: but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish?” (Luke 13:4, 5)
Repent! The list of gross sins is repeated throughout Scripture: idolatry of hand and heart; sexual immorality of all kinds; greed for money and false business dealings; rebellion against authority in home, nation, and religion; disdain for the vulnerable poor, lonely, or foreign to our lands. Which of us is innocent; which of us does not easily see others’ faults more clearly than our own?
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. … Whoever loves his brother abides in the light,and his him there is no cause for stumbling.” (I John 1:8, 9; 2:10)
But it is not enough to know our own failures: we must warn not only ourselves but others of the risk of the judgment, as who would not warn another of any impending disaster?
“If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” (Ezekiel 3:18)
But on Palm Sunday we remember Christ came into Jerusalem, to die by unjust execution days later and then be raised in triumph, so that the warning leaves us not in fear of our own inadequacy:
“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you my be feared.” (Psalm 130:3, 4)
And in the fullness of God’s revelation the cause of that just forgiveness is now found in Christ’s death and resurrection, as the Church of God, according to her Commission, now proclaims:
“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.'” (Acts 2:37-39)