In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
Sretan Praznik! Joyous Feast Day!
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ today is the Great Feast of the Entrance of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, commonly referred to as Palm Sunday.
Today we stand at the start of the Great and Holy Week. The Church reminds us of this at the Vespers service for Palm Sunday. “Let us hasten O believers, moving from one divine festival to another; from palms and branches to the fulfillment of the august and saving sufferings of Christ. Let us watch Him, bearing His sufferings voluntarily for our sake; and let us sing unto Him with worthy praise, crying, O Fountain of mercy, O Heaven of Salvation, O Lord, glory to You.”
The celebration of the Holy Week begins with the rising of Lazarus from the dead, celebrated yesterday, and culminates with our Lord’s passion and resurrection. We are reminded of this with the Troparion of the feast. “By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion O Christ our God, You didst confirm the universal resurrection. Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry aloud to You, O Vanquisher of Death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.”
In today’s Gospel we hear of the anointing of Jesus by Mary, Lazarus’ sister, with the myrrh of spikenard while He is at dinner. Then we hear of our Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.
Blessed Theophylact describes this dinner as the preparation of our Lord as the Lamb of God. We are reminded of the preparation for the Passover and the Exodus from Egypt that God directed that a lamb be prepared for the slaughter; “In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb.” (Exodus 12:3) This preparation of our Lord occurs through the anointing by Mary.
In this Gospel we are once again reminded of the relationship of Mary and Martha. Mary is the one that focuses her attention on the Lord. While Martha is the one who busies herself with serving. We should be reminded of what our Lord says of Mary and Martha in the Gospel of Saint Luke by the actions of Mary in this Gospel; “And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
In this case instead of sitting at Jesus’ feet Mary takes a vial of expensive oil, myrrh of spikenard, and anoints the Lord. This is done to signify Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One of God. Oil was used to by the Jews to anoint priests and kings. The Psalms remind us of this ritual with the following “It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments.” (Psalm 133:2). Thus this ritual performed by Mary reminds us that Jesus is the High Priest and King.
Judas immediately states that this oil should have been sold and given to the poor. The Gospel makes it clear that he says this not out of concern for the poor but that he was a thief. Through these words he makes it clear that his intention was to steal the money that could have come from the sale of this oil. Through these words Judas also reveals that he is willing to betray Jesus for money. This should remind us of what the apostle Paul says to Timothy “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1Timothy 6:10)
We hear in the Gospel that many people had come to believe in Jesus as the Christ because of His rising of Lazarus from the dead. We also hear how the chief priests seek to kill Lazarus because he was the cause of this belief in Jesus. Lazarus was persecuted by the Jews so much that he eventually fled Cyprus. He would eventually be appointed as the Archbishop of Cyprus. He reposed again in 63 AD with a peaceful death.
Our Lord then enters into Jerusalem boldly upon the colt of an ass. Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic states that there is a reason that Christ rides upon the foal of an ass and not a she-ass. It is because the she-ass represents the Jewish people with their hard hearts and minds that are unwilling to be lead by Christ’s love for mankind. The foal is young and represents the pagan peoples that are open willing and thirsting for God’s love. As you can see we all have a choice to make. We can choose to lead by God’s love to righteousness or we can reject God and follow the path of destruction.
As Jesus enters the people cry out Hosanna in Highest blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord. The word Hosanna is a Jewish word that means O Lord, save now. Only God has the power to save. Thus, the people are confirming Jesus as God as He enters into Jerusalem. These words also confirm that Jesus is the one that comes in the name of God the Father. As it says in the Gospel of Saint John “I am come in my Father’s name.” (John 5:43)
These people are overjoyed as our Lord enters Jerusalem because they know that God is going to do something great to deliver His people. They do not know what it is but, as they see the events unfold they realize that Jesus has not come to establish an earthly kingdom as they were hoping. He is not doing His will or theirs but the will of the Father. Thus, they become disillusioned and in a few short days the same people are shouting crucify Him, crucify Him. How many of us do the same thing when things are not going our way in the Church, many just turn our backs on His Church and walk away. If we are particularly bitter about something we work very hard against the Church.
So my dear brothers and sisters my prayer for you that you may continually shout out Hosanna in the highest blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord; so that you may know Him as your Savior.
Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on Palm Sunday 2009.