This Sunday out of all the Sundays you might come to church is a unique experience. It is full of movement and activity. From beginning outside and processing into the church with palms singing “All Glory Laud and Honor” to listening to the entirety of the passion narrative from Mark’s Gospel, it is a lot to take in for one morning, a lot to process. But there is something I really like about all this movement and activity. For this sort of celebration of Palm Sunday allows us to get caught-up in the unfolding story, the story of Holy Week, the story of our Lord’s great sacrifice for the sins of the world. See, your faith is not a stagnate thing, it is organic and lively. On any given Sunday when you go to church you come different than you ever came before. Perhaps you are a bit more anxious or more in tune with your need for fellowship or struggling with a specific doubt or simply feeling a sense of contentment. It is always a bit different but today we are reminded how wherever you are at any given moment you still fall under the grand narrative of our Lord’s passion.
Now, it is fascinating we call the telling of our Lord’s suffering and death His passion. If someone puts on a production featuring this story, they call it a Passion Play. When Mel Gibson made a movie about the events of Holy Week, he titled it, “The Pasion the Christ.” Passion is usually something we reserve for hopes and dreams, for the unyielding desire to accomplish what your heart longs for. Someone’s passion is what consumes their thoughts and emotions, it is the focus of their actions. Our Lord’s passion takes Him from the celebration of the Passover with His disciples in the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane. There He prays to His Father as His heart is sorrowful to the point of death. His passion would allow Judas to betray Him. His passion would find Him bound in chains and taken to the Council to be tried as a heretic. His passion was to be delivered over to Pilate who will eventually sentence Him to be crucified. His passion is found in the mocking and the brutality of the moment, even as He cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” His passion leads Him to death and to a borrowed tomb.
How is this our Lord’s passion? Certainly, he did not long for such humiliation and torture and shame. How can one be passionate about crucifixion? But, as we ponder these questions, we begin to see the true focus of our Lord’s passion. For the events of Holy Week are but the trials He had to endure to achieve the goal of His passion. For His true passion was not pain and strife but your salvation. He was and continues to be passionate about securing eternal life for you. All that transpires, from His triumphant riding into the city of Jerusalem to shouts of, “Hosanna!” to His betrayal, suffering and death was for you.
Why would Jesus do that? Why would He go through such things? Was it because He knew some day you would somehow return the favor or pay it forward to the next generation? Did He see some spark of potential and, as a result, went the extra mile for your salvation? In other words, did you deserve this passion and love and mercy of your Lord? No. See, this is the true wonder of the events of Holy Week. It is not a time of looking within yourself to see what is good and right and salutary enough for the Lord to do such things for you. It is not about becoming more humble, more holy, more devout, and so worthy of His love. No, it is a time to fix our eyes and all our hope on our Lord alone. His love alone saves you. His passion alone secures for you eternal life.
Such passion pours out on the undeserving. Jesus Christ gives His life for sinners like you. And He does not qualify His love with a list of caveats. He does not say, “If you love Me in return, I will love you,” or “If you promise to do better, I will love you,” or “If you at least stop those things we all know are sinful and wrong, then I will bear your sins and give you hope.” No, His passion is far greater than any of that. He bears the cross, suffers and dies for you as you come into His story right here and right now. He does not wait for you to be worthy or to get your affairs in order. He loves you now, forgives you now and His death and resurrection are the testimony to that love, that passion.
So, the crazy events we will focus on this week are a special time for us to be overcome with the promises of our God and reminded of the assurance of life eternal which are yours in the passion of our Lord. He does it all for you. He leaves nothing out. It is finished. You stand forgiven in Christ. Salvation is yours.