Luke 19, 28-40 + Isaiah 50, 4-7 + Psalm 22 X Philippians 2, 6-11 + Luke 22, 14 – 23, 56
March 20, 2016 at Saint Peter and Saint William Church in Naples, FL
There is a detail in the 19th chapter of Luke’s Gospel that slides by easily. There are no palms in Luke’s Gospel. Having said that, do you remember what it was they spread on the ground in front of him? Yes, their cloaks, their single most important and valuable piece of clothing. It was the most expensive article of clothing anyone had in those days. Constantly mended, it was never discarded. For the poorest of the poor, it was their shelter. For the wealthiest, it was their badge of success. There is something else unique about Luke’s Gospel not found in Matthew and Mark. The crowd is not shouting “Hosanna”. They are shouting: “Peace in Heaven and Glory in Highest.” It’s an echo or a repeat of the message angels brought at the birth of Christ. So, what began with a message of Peace and Glory, ends with that message now taken up by the people of Jerusalem. Today, what began with the ashes of Palms five weeks ago ends with Palms. What begins with a triumphant procession into Jerusalem ends with another procession of shame leaving Jerusalem. Jesus rides in with glory and shouts of joy. He walks out with jeers and scorn. Contrasts everywhere you care to look in these readings and in this liturgy. Even now we began here in song after weeks of entering in silence here at St Peter. We will depart in somber silence.
Something has happened to us, and for believers, there is not avoiding the reality and the truth of it. Jesus Christ, the Son of God has traded places with us. The innocent has traded places with the guilty.
All through Luke’s Passion account, the innocence of Jesus is announced for all. The religious leader, Herod Antipas, knew it and sent Jesus back to Pilate. That civil leader, Pilate, knew it too and said so: “There is no charge against him. He has done nothing to deserve death.” A criminal crucified beside him proclaims the innocence of Jesus. Then at the very end, a Roman Centurion knows it and says it. “Surely this was an innocent man.” The innocent one has died so that the guilty may live. There is nothing innocent about us when we tell the truth about our lives. What we must leave her pondering is how and why God would be willing and able to trade places with us suffering like a guilty one in order for us to share the life of the innocent one. That is what has happened. To give us the child’s place at the Father’s right hand, the innocent Son gave up his place there to redeem and restore us to the place the Father has prepared for us. There is much here to wonder about, and even more here to be grateful for.