Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday

Not everyone knows that some parts of the Christian tradition have renamed “Palm” Sunday, “Passion” Sunday, referring to the passion, or suffering, of our Lord in the week to come. Some churches and traditions currently use both names (“Palm/Passion Sunday”–a bit odd-looking), perhaps thinking of this time as a transition period between the old name and the new. Most of us probably have an intuitive preference for “Palm” over “Passion.” We like the palm-waving, the acclamations, maybe even a parade with a real donkey. It’s a festive occasion, a chance to celebrate a little Easter and Ascension before the doom and gloom of Holy Week–a brief respite from Lent before Lent hits one last time, hits like a ton of bricks.

That might be part of the problem, and the reason for a need to change the name. The “triumphal entry” is full of paradoxes, some of which are obvious (a king on a donkey), while others are not. It is too easy to forget that this king embodies a countercultural kind of royalty, a kingship not of traditional power and glory but one of self-giving and suffering. It is too easy to separate the Palm-Sunday Jesus from the Good-Friday Jesus and then to conclude that somehow the Good-Friday Jesus is only a temporary figure between the Palm-Sunday Jesus and the Easter Jesus. 

Nothing could be further from the truth about Jesus. He is king and lord, not in spite of Good Friday, but because of Good Friday. He reigns from the cross, as the Gospel-writers each tell us in their own way. We give him “all glory, laud, and honor” as our king and lord because his cross reveals the true nature of his kingship and of God: self-giving, forgiving, powerful-in-powerlessness love. Palm Sunday is Passion Sunday, and vice versa. The “Palm/Passion” people have it right, as odd as it may look. 2007-03-31 • 10:48:57

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