This week we arrive at the time when the church calendar wraps and twists around itself; like a child tracing the single line of an apparently dual-sided Moebius strip, we find ourselves at the end and the beginning at once.
Yesterday the Western church celebrated Palm Sunday, the beginning of the end of Jesus’ earthly life. Today the global church, at least in the more liturgical congregations, celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation, the beginning of the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life. This feast day, 9 months before Christmas, remembers Gabriel’s appearance to Mary to “announce” her miraculous conception of the Christ Child.
This juxtaposition intrigues me. On the one hand, we have this angelic pronouncement:
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33, ESV).
From the moment of His conception, He is proclaimed as the Son of David, the promised seed who would reign over the “house of Jacob,” the family of Israel, forever. From the moment of His conception, He is hailed as a king, the
King in fact, the long-awaited descendant of the beloved King David, the King who would fulfill the covenant God had made a millennium earlier with the man after His own heart (see 2 Sam. 7). Despite the national nature of these promises and Messianic hopes, this coronation occurs privately in a conversation between an angel and the young virgin who would graciously, miraculously, bear and birth the King of kings for whom the world longs.
This year, this private pronouncement, into which we eavesdrop in the Gospel according to Luke, rubs shoulders on the church calendar with Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem in the midst of the hordes of pilgrims gathering to celebrate the Passover in the place God had appointed, as the Torah required (Deuteronomy 16:1-8). At His word, Jesus’ disciples bring Him a colt at the Mount of Olives as He approaches the city. As He rides this unbroken foal, He is welcomed with jubilation by those who have heard tell of His miracles and especially of the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:12-13, ESV).
And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 1:9-10, ESV).
At the Triumphal Entry of Palm Sunday, Jesus is again hailed as King. This time, however, great crowds proclaim Him publicly as the King of Israel. These who would turn on Him in less than a week’s time and cry out, “His blood be upon us and on our children!” now cry, “Hosanna!” or in English, “Save us!” In hailing him as the King of Israel they recognize His connection with the promised Davidic king. They cry out for Jesus to save them, but it appears in context that they desire Him to deliver them from Roman oppression just as David delivered earlier generations from Philistine domination.
In another curious juxtaposition, the crowd’s excited shouts quote part of Psalm 118, the last of the Hallel group of Psalms sung every year at Passover. The Passover pilgrims apply to Jesus a Passover Psalm. They hail Jesus as King of Israel and heir to David’s coming
kingdom using words from the Jewish feast which looks back
to the time when the death angel passed over the houses of the people of Israel because of the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. Little do they know how appropriate those words will be. Little do they know that the King they celebrate will soon give His own life as the true Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world and redeems His people not from political oppression and enslavement but from the oppression of sin, death, and Satan.
Such juxtapositions keep the Scriptures always new to me:
“Hosanna!” “Save us!” Save us, Lord Jesus.
Annunciation and Passion.
Kingship and Passover.
The Lamb with the crown.
The King crowned with thorns.
Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Thanks be to God for His many good gifts in the last two weeks:
::Jesus the King, first, last, and always
::an excellent recital performance for Mezzo, who has now fulfilled the singing portion of her degree requirements
::new shoes and orthotics which are slowly improving my ankle pain
::slow improvement of cough and allergy symptoms
::more cough medicine in the mean time
::all Bach, all day Thursday on the classical radio station in honor of his birthday
::Soli Deo Gloria, all his work to the glory of God
::reminder of the many blessed opportunities my sisters and I have received to learn and perform great music
::a long-awaited specialized eye test going well
::pain afterward resolving in less than a day
::conclusion of this cycle of physical therapy appointments
::the first week since January 9 with less than 2 medical appointments :)
::a joyful, humbling letter of thanks from our Congolese sponsored child
::good news on home refinance proceedings
::fears that don't come to pass
::celebrating Allen's birthday early with family
::cupcakes turning out well
::extra-sweet times in God's Word during an extra-challenging week
::the ongoing adventure of learning the Scriptures
::beholding the living Word in the written Word
(counting gifts #9766-9785)