Today: Sunday, August 25, 2019
 
 

Why Jesus came: To offer himself up    (3/20/2016 )

As a boy, I loved Palm toffees. They might rot your teeth, but they tasted good! The Palm toffee company has long since gone out of business, but during my childhood they were not only a treat, they also provoked a long-running debate with my parents.

The company’s logo - as you can see - was a palm tree with the initial P in the shape of a palm tree with a kind of halo round it. Which was all very well, but I felt it was much more convincingly a T than a P. I could see that ‘Talm’ didn’t make much sense, but I was pedantic enough (at that age?) to feel they’d not played fair.

The palm tree was, of course, I realise now, a symbol.  And it worked; it was there on every toffee wrapper. You knew you were eating your favourites.

That distant childhood memory came to mind as I was thinking about Palm Sunday - because palm trees crop up here, too. This Sunday is the day for remembering how Jesus rode into the streets of Jerusalem on a donkey, and the crowds welcomed him with great excitement, laying palm branches and even coats in front of him. On that basis, perhaps it could equally well have been called 'Donkey Sunday' or 'Triumph Sunday' or 'Coats-off Sunday'. But there was a very difficult side to this day, too: Jesus knew he was coming into Jerusalem, but that he wouldn't be leaving it again. Entering the city came at a great cost to him; he was coming to offer himself up.

It’s obvious that palm trees are generally tall. So, to reach the branches, someone had to climb up. They would have needed a knife or axe to cut branches down, and then they might have handed them round to friends. Others may have gathered anything green from the fields. Others just took off their coats and spread them on the road. Whatever they did, some effort was needed, some cost involved.

There is a story that Sir Walter Raleigh, the sixteenth-century explorer and courtier, once spread his new 'plushy' cloak over a puddle to save Queen Elizabeth I from muddying her shoes.  The story is probably an invention, but if he did, he presumably had an expensive visit to the cleaners shortly afterwards.

This is actually closer to the meaning of this Sunday. It's not just about welcoming Jesus at the beginning of this very special week; it even more asks the question - what will we lay at the feet of Jesus? What sacrifice, what costly treasure, what effort, will we spread out for him?

The palm branch represents our offering, our tribute to Jesus. On the day of course, not everyone was so enthustiastic or generous. Some held back; some thought it all very improper. So there is a challenge here for us about how interested we are in Jesus; how gladly we welcome him, and how much we're prepared to offer to him.

Perhaps before we move on from today towards the Easter celebrations, we might want to think of renaming this Palm Sunday as Honour Sunday... a day to reflect on how deeply our response to Jesus might really honour him, and that whatever it costs us, even every day, will never come close to what it cost him.





Pray: Help me, Jesus, to be a joyful welcomer - to serve you as you deserve, to give without counting the cost, to love without holding back, to honour you in the way I live today. Amen.

Think about: Football fans make a fuss every week. They aren't afraid to make a noise and show their loyalty on their shirts and in their chants. We may not want to emulate them exactly, but we do have a greater cause for celebration (a win every week!) - are we too restrained?

Challenge: Read the Easter story this week, from beginning to end - for instance, Mark chapters 11-16 work out at about a chapter a day!

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