Today is Palm Sunday. Nearly 20 centuries ago Jesus, astride a colt, rode through the gates of Jerusalem. The people of the surrounding region laid before Him palm branches and chanted the refrain: “Hosanna in the highest!” The branches were a sign of victory; the proclamation a petition for salvation. It was a celebratory and anticipatory scene. Yet the reality of this victory and salvation heralded from Jewish lips would stand in stark contrast to the assumptions of the crowd. It was not the eradication of Roman tyranny or, at-long-last political peace that Christ came to accomplish.
Rather, as we know, He arrived to secure clemency for the souls of His people and tyranny over the true enemy – sin leading to death. This He did by descending to the place of darkness, agonizing under Divine wrath, becoming depravity, and dying a substitute. Good Friday was certainly not what many, hoisting branches and spreading cloaks, had envisioned five days prior on Palm Sunday; but it had been the plan of God all along.
As we gather before computer screens and TV’s this morning we can readily admit that we had assumed the plan of God during this Holy Week would look much different than this current reality. After all, doesn’t He know that the lost souls of the Bay need physical buildings to gather in on Easter surrounded by gobs of believers adorned in pastels? Clearly God must fail to understand the strategic importance of our Holy Week traditions in the expansion of His kingdom. Or…perhaps (and if you know anything of the providence of God you know there’s no “perhaps” to this equation) this is exactly how God intended Holy Week 2020 to unfold. Friends who would not have strolled through church doors – even on Easter – will watch, at your invitation, a Good Friday or Resurrection service online from the comfort and supposed safety of their living rooms (only we know, thankfully, that there is no “safety” from the Hound of Heaven). Co-workers you have prayed for will tune into a broadcast, both they and you never realizing that your prayers will be answered in ways you never imagined “Easter victory” looking like.
Even you will be reminded, due to our present state, of the dual truth that (1) the church is not a place but is a people of God and (2) that we have taken for granted – and hopefully never shall again – gathering with our church to collectively worship our Redeemer. This year will be different; and because we have a God who is absolutely sovereign and is working all things according to His counsel, the difference is Divinely planned – not an accident or a plan B – and is therefore a very good thing.