In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

We began yesterday, with the commemoration of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, our journey with our Lord during the last week of His life, culminating with the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation – Christ’s death on the Cross, burial, and His Holy Resurrection. Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday are inextricably linked, not only in the liturgical cycle of the Church, but the events of Palm Sunday are directly related to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The two days share a Troparion: By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion, Thou didst confirmed the universal resurrection, O Christ God. Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death: “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord.” On the path to His own death and resurrection, Christ gives His disciples on final (and most clear) indication of what was to come [He had prophesied His own death many times, but the disciples refused to hear it, they didn’t understand what He meant]. A week before His own resurrection, Christ raises Lazarus from the dead. He shows His power over life and death by bringing back to life one who had been dead four days. Everyone knew that Lazarus was dead; he had been ill and died and was prepared for death and placed in the tomb. And many people from Jerusalem had come to be with the family as they mourned the loss of their brother. It was common knowledge that Lazarus had died, and after Christ raised him from the dead, it was common knowledge that a dead man had been brought back to life by this man, Jesus Christ.

This is how we come to Palm Sunday. There’s no other reason (on a human level) for the people to greet Christ with palms, to receive Him as a king, and to sing “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord.” They greet Him because word has spread in the city that this man (already known as a teacher and a healer) had raised someone from the dead; everyone wanted to see Christ. This triumphal entrance into the Holy City of Jerusalem was clearly prophesied in the Old Testament. Last night at Vespers we read the prophecy from the book of Zechariah (who lived about 500 years before Christ). Zechariah wrote, “Greatly rejoice, O daughter of Zion! Proclaim it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you; He is righteous and saving; He is gentle and mounted upon a donkey, even a young foal” (9:9). Matthew and John both cite this prophecy as referring to Christ’s entry in Jerusalem today. The prophecy is fulfilled through the raising of Lazarus.

Christ was respected by some, questioned by many, hated by some; but because of Lazarus, all came out to meet Him as He entered Jerusalem. At the end of this week, these same crowds will reject Christ, and they’ll cry to the Roman governor, “Crucify Him!” They greeted Him as a king, and they expect Him to usher in a time of freedom – of political and personal freedom from the Romans, a time of prosperity for the Jewish people. This is the Messiah they want; but this is not Christ. And when it becomes clear that Christ will not be the leader they expect, they turn on Him, and they’re ready for Him to be put to death and moved out of the way. Today is the only time in our Lord’s earthly life that’s received by the masses as the true King and Messiah that He is. And ironically, it’s all this coming together at the end of Holy Week that turn the people against Him.

Holy Week is a special time in the Orthodox Church. We fill the week with services, with times to remember the saving work of our Lord, and time to relate our own lives today with this week in history. We re-live and re-member (not sentimentally, but we enter into this time again, year after year), remembering the final week of our Lord’s life with both joy and sorrow – joy at the accomplishing of our salvation, and sorrow knowing what we were capable of doing to Christ, sadness at all He had to suffer in the flesh to show us salvation. Take up your palms today and greet Christ, receive His Holy Body and His Precious Blood for your salvation. Make firm your resolve to walk with Him to the end – not only in this week, but throughout each and every day. When we turn our backs on our Christ and we lean to sin, then we’re re-enacting in our own lives the move of the people in Jerusalem – how often we go from receiving Christ with joy and anticipation and the desire for Him to be everything for us, and how soon we lean our hearts again to sin. One of the Church Fathers writes that each time we sin, we crucify Christ again. I urge us all to listen carefully in the services this week (be there as much as you can), and let the words of the Scriptures and the hymns and the readings sink deep into our minds and into our hearts, preparing us all to greet the Holy Resurrection with “fear of God, and faith and love.”

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!