Fr Jordan Greatbatch presided and preached at the 10am Mass on Palm Sunday, reflecting on Jesus's triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the Passion Narrative as it appears in the Gospel of St Matthew.
Read on for the sermon and a video of the service.
A few years ago, I went and saw the play Macbeth at the pop-up globe when it was Auckland. It was a profound experience. I am sure I don’t have to tell many of you of the story. It is quite a dark play about one man’s desire for power at any cost. He and his wife murder their way to become King and Queen of Scotland only for their kingdom to fall apart by the same bloodshed. It is an ancient theme. A lesson on the pitfalls of power. Jesus’ words as he was captured always come to mind ‘those who live by the sword, die by the sword’.
And it is also a theme that is in complete contrast to our image of Jesus as King from our readings today.
Today as we gather here on Palm Sunday there are signs of power, privilege and royalty, however this is royalty of another kind. There is none of the usual trappings of royalty. No royal carriage, but rather a simple donkey, no studded crown with jewels, but a cruel crown bent and twisted with piercing thorns. There is no coronation throne, carved from the finest wood to be a place of honor. But a cruel cross, roughly sawn from off cut timber, a place of dishonor, humiliation and torture.
There is a welcome, a joyous welcome, with Palms and shouts of hosanna! These shouts however are soon replaced with the jeers of the crowd. There are no royal placards but rather a piece of wood, with the crudely written words ‘the king of the Jews’.
And as much as we try to overt our eyes from this royal pageantry, we are transfixed, not because of the finery or the majesty, but because of something else, something so profound that our language cannot even grasp its meaning. But we try; we try by using that word that has been so abused, so emptied of its power. That word is simply ‘love’. For it is all about love. This king is the king of love. And we come, just as we are, to honor him.
And as we do honor him this Holy Week, we in fact partake in his kingship, we follow his path, we die his death, and we are buried with him. And in this burial we affirm the reality of his death. And at the same time, despite the darkness, we also display that the Christ we worship is not the dead and buried Christ but something more. As we head into this most sacred time, we hold together two seemingly opposite images.
Jesus the prince of peace riding on a donkey to the cheers of the crowd, and Jesus the king of the Jews being condemned to death by that same crowd.
Perhaps, however, it is okay to sit with these two images, because they represent for us how we feel during Holy Week. We know Jesus’ triumphant love but also his awful suffering. And in doing so we come to the realization that this paradox is a part of the story.
For as Jesus himself said “I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24). So come; let us put our feet firmly on that ground this Holy Week, and follow this king, the king of love who leads us through the darkness to light. Hatred to love, despair to hope.