Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday are both holidays of pomp, circumstance, and celebration. And yet the two stand in stark contrast to one another. As the tradition goes, on Palm Sunday we celebrate Jesus the humble king, who came into Jerusalem on a donkey (rather than a war horse) surrounded by the commoners (instead of royalty) who placed their coats and palm branches at his feet (instead of a red carpet). But notice the subtleties of the story; everyone is celebrating not what Jesus had come to do, but what they wanted him to come and do. They wanted the triumphant warrior who had come to overthrow the Romans and restore Israel to its former glory. The bad guys were, as they say, gonna get what was due. There’s a reason we don’t call Palm Sunday the high point of Jesus’ ministry. I wonder how many people were disappointed when Jesus told the disciples to ask for a donkey rather than a horse. And Jesus didn’t come into Jerusalem thinking “at last, my kingdom.”
He came in weeping. Victorious kings don’t come in weeping.
He knew this wasn’t the start of something grand, something big, some new ministry initiative or some new benevolent monarchy. He knew that something grand had already started thirty years earlier in a dirty cave, or maybe even thousands of years earlier when Abram was called out of Ur by a mysterious God who wanted to redeem the world. Jesus knew there was a final victory needed that only He could win, a new high point to come.
But it wasn’t today. Not palm sunday.
Resurrection Sunday, on the other hand, follows a week of insanity, chaos, rebellion. A final supper in which Jesus declared that someone would betray him, followed by betrayal after betrayal. It’s interesting to note, that while Judas was the only one who scripture says would betray Jesus, all of them did; they all fell asleep, they all left. Jesus died in between a thief and a murderer, not between loyal friends; they watched from a distance. Kings aren’t supposed to be crucified, especially not next to criminals, and so when all hope of this victory was lost, the followers of the would-be king dispersed. Some took to hiding, others buried the body, all wept. The world sat in silence. The sabbath passed.
But then, an empty tomb. A mysterious gardener. Strangers on the road.
Victory had come in the strangest way; death itself defeated, the world reborn in a slow, staggering, quiet way, like daybreak. Love had come, but nobody noticed. The contrast is this: while Palm Sunday is mostly about the people celebrating what they wanted, Resurrection Sunday - Easter - is about celebrating what we got. Resurrection comes only when every hope and dream that Palm Sunday celebrates has been dashed against a Roman cross. On Resurrection Sunday, we celebrate that our Palm Sunday hopes weren’t big enough, that God knew what we wanted was too small, and so gave us something better: