Palm Sunday: ‘Hosanna’ or ‘Crucify’?

The long passages narrated today begin with Jesus and crew preparing for a final Passover meal and end with Jesus’ corpse being sealed in a tomb. We go from the entry into Jerusalem to the burial of the Saviour. That is quite a journey!

Jesus enters in a royal procession as described by the prophet Zechariah. He is greeted with shouts of hosanna, “Save us.” That heartfelt cry is meant quite literally, for the awaited Jewish messiah is expected to lead a military revolution to end the Roman domination of Jewish territory and usher in a new, final, and perfect age for the Hebrew people. But Jesus is not that kind of messiah, not what they are expecting; and the shouts of ‘Hosanna’ will soon becomes shouts of ‘Crucify’– execute the pretender! You see, Jesus is a holy pacifist, and he has signed his own death warrant by entering the Holy City in the holiest season when the people are looking for secular liberation. A prominent biographer of Saint Martin Luther King — the anniversary of whose martyrdom was yesterday — was asked by a reporter just why Doctor King did not start up a vanguard political movement for violent overthrow of oppression, and he responded, “The overwhelming force of the person of Jesus.”

Like King, Jesus did not come proclaiming himself, but a vision of a new world, wherein hatred, alienation, and injustice are overcome, both morally and physically, and all humanity join together as brothers and sisters, to the benefit of all and the glory of God. Jesus called that life in God’s Empire, a hopeful alternative to the phony values of the Roman Empire and all such empires right up to today. This “Kingdom of God” is not a church, nor is it some other world in another dimension or a parallel universe; it is our own world — or what’s left of it — transformed by radical love. It is a reality in which God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. It is the world God dreams of, the reality you and I are commissioned to build. Jews call this task berit olam, healing the world.

This week we walk with Jesus from that noisy, fateful arrival in Jerusalem to the awful silence of Good Friday night. We shall witness once again the natural and terrible consequences of uncompromised prophetic ministry. We will be challenged to consider when, like the Palm Sunday crowd, we end up selling out Jesus by going along with the false systemic values that killed him. That makes Good Friday up-close and personal, doesn’t it? But then we shall learn of God’s incredible love and forgiveness and self-giving. We will learn once again that Jesus’ story does not end there. Nor does ours.


  1. Thanks, Clark! Wonderful ideas, thoughts and direction!

    Miss having our Episcopal Revival – Holy Week but appreciate your words!

    1. Author

      Thank you, Sherry. We live in strange times, indeed, but we shall overcome!

  2. Great blog you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

    1. Author

      Progressive Christianity is a good resource, Thanks for your interest.

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