Palm Sunday | The Passion of Our Lord
“I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
I suppose a lot of people could have said that, but a lot of people didn’t.
Those words came from the late Professor Stephen Hawking,
That famed astrophysicist who died just 11 days ago.
He wasn’t concerned precisely with why people looked before crossing the road,
But he was concerned with practically everything else.
To quote him just one more time, he explained his life’s work this way:
“My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”
That’s fair enough. And what’s more is that it is honest.
He wants to know what you all want to know, and I’m not sure I should fault him for it.
What he was always looking for can be summarized as the “Theory of Everything.”
Wouldn’t you like that, too?
Wouldn’t you like to be able to explain it all?
Wouldn’t you like to tell anyone everyone everything –
Cleanly and convincingly?
Wouldn’t that solve all your problems?
Wouldn’t that make life easier, or at least a bit more comfortable?
Wouldn’t that free you from all that’s been bugging you this Lent?
Imagine for a moment how confident you could be in life and in death.
You’d never look away from that.
The Good News on Palm Sunday is that there is an answer.
The bad news is that it is not clean or convincing.
But real answers rarely are.
Ideas are easy enough as long as they remain just ideas.
That’s why the equations that govern Hawking’s theory are both simple and elegant.
But once applied, they give rise to incredible complexity.
Hawking’s answers, written by his students, were scribbled in chalk,
Erased, corrected, erased again, and wrapped around a room on a blackboard.
They weren’t clean at all, and, despite his fame, not convincing to everyone.
That’s why even his best works remain theories and not something else.
Palm Sunday is at least a little like that.
It’s confusing, and complicated, and uncomfortable, and very long, maybe even tedious.
You just can’t fit it into the hour we’re used to.
It’s light and darkness,
It’s joy and grief,
It’s palm branches and snowstorms,
It’s the Father forsaking the Son.
It’s shouts of “Hosanna,” followed by shouts to “Crucify Him.”
Palm Sunday shows us the answer to everything.
But that answer is a bloody mess;
And it’s going to take all of Holy Week to sort it out.
As you do that this week, and really, in all of your lives,
The messiness of it all can get the better of you.
In the confusion of Palm Sunday, you might take your eyes off of Jesus,
That’s how you end up distracted, unfocused, or even fearful.
But that’s why we read through the whole passion.
It’s very important that you know how the whole answer,
That’s why Jesus told His disciples again and again how this was going to happen.
But even that did not save some people from confusion and fear.
Judas was confused, and so he sold-out his very best Friend.
Peter was afraid, and so he betrayed his God.
The others would have done the same, but they were busy running away,
And leaving Him for dead.
With many signs and miracles, and God’s own Son among them,
The people, too, had been given God’s final answer for their rebellion,
But Jesus as God’s answer to everything was so unconvincing,
That they tried to erase Him and start over
To give it another try with a cleaner, simpler, and more elegant equation.
It doesn’t happen to everyone like that.
Despite confusion and even fear, some people actually keep their eyes fixed on Jesus.
First there’s the woman who anoints Jesus with everything she has,
Not just the costly oil, but with her tears – she holds absolutely nothing back.
That’s the kind of thing you do when the answer to everything is right in front of you.
Add to that woman the two Mary’s plus Salome.
And the penitent thief on Jesus’ right.
They didn’t look away either.
They couldn’t look away, because Jesus is not merely the answer to everything;
That’s why we’re here today.
And that’s why we’ll be here so much this week.
In the Triduum Sacrum, the great three days that approach,
The entire world is called to attention, especially the Church.
Everything that is and ever was and ever will be,
The macro and the micro, the big and the little
The planets without number, and the people beyond notice –
Everything and everyone is entangled with the days that approach.
This is the axis mundi,
This is the center upon which the cosmos turn.
The Derelict who cries from the cross is the Alpha and the Omega,
the Beginning and the End. (Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon)
It’s not a theory of everything.
It’s not a theory at all.
Jesus Christ Crucified for everyone everywhere is the answer.
He is the only answer for your sin, your grief, your shame, and your death.
Christ Crucified for you is the answer to which nothing can be added.
As He Himself says, “It is accomplished.”
Everything that needed to be done for your salvation has been done on the cross.
It is final, complete, and beyond question.
That’s why Jesus Christ Crucified is the answer, even if He is a bloody mess.
And yet, no answer worth believing comes without what the mathematicians call a “proof.”
You remember “proofs” as those grueling notes you wrote in the margin to show that things really worked out the way your equations say they did.
That’s what the resurrection is.
The resurrection is God’s very public, very flamboyant proof that His answer is…
True, and final, and trustworthy.
The foolishness of it He calls wisdom.
The bloody mess of it He calls beauty.
This week is a beautiful mess,
For now Christ enters into His despicable, horrifying glory.
And He will wait no longer.
It’s time now.
So let’s go.
No looking elsewhere, no distractions, no reservations, no fear;
Christ alone. There is nothing else.