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Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion B ~"Borrowed"~ Susan McGurgan D.Min.

The journey into Jerusalem

began with waving palms and adoring crowds shouting, Hosanna! 

Blessed is he

who comes in the name of the Lord! 

Blessed is the kingdom

of our father David that is to come! 

Hosanna in the highest!” 


At that triumphant moment,

there was nothing the crowd would have denied him.


they would begrudge him.


they would have withheld.




A throne.

The rowdy crowd

was as eager to “get”

as to give.

They were hungry—


for whatever Jesus could give them.

     Political status

     Power to crush the Roman army



The crowd was hungry

and what they dreamed of

was suddenly within their grasp…

or so it seemed.


But God had a different plan.


This warrior,

this ruler,

this King,

this anointed one,

rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed colt.

On his back was homespun,

not polished armor.

His hands wore calluses,

not jewels.

He spoke of sin and redemption,

not national sovereignty or imperial might.

He claimed forgiveness and mercy,

not status and wealth.


He would be betrayed

Handed over





Nailed to a cross.

His broken and battered body

would be wrapped in borrowed linen

and laid in a borrowed tomb.


The jubilant crowd lining the road to Jerusalem

knew they were seeing a “winner”,

but they were blind to

God’s vision of success.


They didn’t see

that Jesus came to conquer

not just Rome,

but the world.

They didn’t understand

that Jesus entered the holy city,

not to deal death

avoid death

or trick death,

but to meet death head-on.

He would conquer the world

and death itself…

by dying. *


The crowds that ripped branches from trees

and screamed with excitement,

didn’t understand

that their hunger would be eased

and their emptiness filled,

not by conquest

or power

or wealth,

but by a broken body, poured out for them.


No scripture study or theology class

can explain the cross completely.

No homily or lecture

fully outlines its meaning.

Yet, each of us who follow Jesus

will eventually find ourselves

walking along a dusty path

to our own Calvary--

to our own cross.

Jesus said,

“whoever wishes to come after me

must deny themselves,

take up their cross and follow me.”


From a marketing standpoint,

this message is a disaster.

Imagine how many followers Jesus might have

if he had avoided the cross—

If he had invited,

“Lay down your cross and follow me.”

“Ignore your burdens

and I will make them disappear.”

“I will not suffer,

and if you believe in me,

you will never suffer, either.”

That’s a message

designed to keep the palm branches waving!


As Barbara Brown Taylor says,**

Suffering can be the great killer of faith.

It can compress the human soul

into a knot of bitter pain

and explode our lives

into a thousand brittle pieces.


Suffering can be the way we discover

the depth of our humanity and faith--

our capacity for love and beauty--

our ability to forgive--

our kinship with God and each other.

For the difference between these two options,

look at the cross.

The cross teaches us

that suffering can be redemptive,

that burdens can be shared,

that sins can be forgiven,

and that darkness can be illuminated

by the power of a loving God.


The cross dares us to believe

that life is more powerful than death

that love is more enduring than hate

that hope is stronger than despair.

The cross reminds us that, like Jesus,

much in our lives

is borrowed.

We live on borrowed grace

and borrowed time;

borrowed strength

and borrowed hope.


The cross reminds us that

our views of “success” and “defeat”

"power" and "riches"

might just differ from God’s,

and that sometimes,

God holds out a different plan.


This week, we have journeyed to the city gates,

palm branches waving,

agendas in hand,

wish lists ready. *


As we welcome the King into Jerusalem,

what are we wishing for?


*Byron L. Rohrig, Christian Century, March 9, 1988, p. 236.

**Barbara Brown Taylor, God in Pain: Teaching Sermons on Suffering, Abingdon Press, 1998


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