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Please read the scriptures set for the day before continuing: https://www.lectionarypage.net/YearA_RCL/HolyWk/APalmSun_RCL.html
Almighty and everlasting God,
who in your tender love towards the human race
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Words from our Palm Gospel: ‘when they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me’.
As we begin this Holy Week, we do so in different circumstances; we would normally begin the celebration of Mass in the Church grounds as the Palms are blessed and the Palm Gospel is read. This year must be different – we are not able to gather as a congregation – but we are still able to live out the events of Holy Week as we read the scriptures and make the journey to Jerusalem.
To aid us in our journey, reflections will be posted on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day.
A week from now on Easter day, we would have sung ‘At the Lamb’s high feast’, a wonderful meditation on the salvation won by Jesus through his sacrifice on the cross, my favourite line is: ‘Christ the victim, Christ the priest’. Over the course of these days, we will consider the role of Jesus as a priest.
The priesthood of Jesus, together with his role as prophet and King reach their culmination over this week – this begins visibly, today.
The role of the priest in the Old Testament was characterised by three functions: the care of the temple in Jerusalem; instructing people in the law of the Lord; and the offering of sacrifice to God.
Today, we see the first of these functions most clearly on display: the care of the Temple in Jerusalem. Every Palm Sunday, I am always reminded of my time in Oxford, at St Stephen’s House. On this day several years ago, we processed from the grounds of the House to the parish Church of St Mary & St John, Cowley, in the East.
As we processed we sang hymns, the hymns that we would’ve sung this morning; ‘All glory Laud and honour’, ‘Ride on ride on in majesty’ and the like. As we moved East through the adjoining roads, people joined themselves to our procession – there was a sense of expectancy, anticipation and excitement about what was to come.
In the Palm Gospel we hear of a similar sense of excitement and expectancy because, like us, Jesus approaches Jerusalem, the Holy City, also from the East. In a detail that is often overlooked, we read that the Son of David together with the disciples enter from Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. This is significant in and of itself, for Jesus reclaims the city that God had left, for the prophet Ezekiel (10. 18-19) speaks of the day, some five hundred years before when God’s presence and glory had left the temple: ‘then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple’. God had left his people because of their false worship, their corruption and their sin. The ‘Shekhinah’, the very presence of God had departed from them, nothing could have been more calamitous for the people.
Today, Jesus returns to the city in the same ways as it had been left, fulfilling the prophecy also from Ezekiel that the Lord would one day return, cleansing and restoring his temple: ‘the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east; the sound was like the sound of mighty waters; and the earth shone with his glory’.
Today marks the return of Jesus, the priest, to his temple, although as we shall see, it is not a the second temple of the Jews that he comes to inhabit, but rather, he comes to establish a new temple, the temple of his body, the new dwelling place of God.
Jesus fulfils in his majestic entrance all three of the priestly functions – he cares for temple afresh, he comes to teach the people the true law of the Lord fulfilling it in his person, and he comes to offer a sacrifice will transform the people.
The priesthood of Jesus is on display for the salvation of the world – today marks that beginning – the priest who is also a King (Zechariah 9.9) comes to fulfil the prophecy of Ezekiel and that of Isaiah, that ‘the one who vindicates is near’.
Today, as we read the scriptures, let us go up to Jerusalem with him, that we may, in the words of the collect, experience the ‘tender love’ of the redeemer King who is our priest.
Lord Jesus, you humbled yourself
in taking the form of a servant,
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation,
give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord, King, and eternal priest,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
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