Sunday Homily: Behold Your King Comes To You

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

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Matthew 21:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Matthew 26:14-27:66

Bethphage is a small town on the Mount of Olives, the hill in front of the Temple of Jerusalem. Jesus’ ride is short but important. He travels over the crest of the Mount of Olives, down past the Garden of Gethsemane, through the Kidron Valley and up to the gates of Jerusalem. The crowd becomes increasingly excited because Jesus’ actions are the fulfillment of a prophesy of Zechariah: «Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey» (Zech 9:9).

The crowds proclaim that Jesus is the son of David, the son of a king. Not only is he the humble king promised by Zechariah; he is proclaimed to be the Prophet-like-Moses promised in Deuteronomy (18:15). The crowds cry out: «Hosanna», which originally meant «rescue us» or «save us» and gradually came to be a word of praise and jubilation. Pope Benedict also explains that: «By the time of Jesus, the word had also acquired Messianic overtones. In the Hosanna acclamation, then, we find an expression of the complex emotions of the pilgrims accompanying Jesus and of his disciples: joyful praise of God at the moment of the processional entry, hope that the hour of the Messiah had arrived, and at the same time a prayer that the Davidic kingship and hence God’s kingship over Israel would be reestablished» (Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 2, 7).

The first reading emphasizes the humility of Jesus, the Son of David and the Servant of the Lord. Jesus is the one who sets his face like flint, determined to undo the curse of Adam. Jesus will give his back to the scourge and not raise his arms to shield his face from the vicious blows of the Passion.

Throughout Jesus’ passion, Psalm 22 is his prayer. It is thirty-one verses long and moves from a questioning cry, «My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?» (22:1), to a song of praise, «In the midst of the congregation I will praise you» (22:22). It is a psalm that looks forward to the day when all the nations shall turn to the Lord and worship before him. «For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations» (22:27). It is the psalm that accompanies Jesus in his humble and obedient death on the Cross. It is the psalm that Jesus will pray as he is nailed to the Cross and watches the soldiers divide his garments and cast lots for his clothing (Psalm 22:18; Matthew 27:35).

The Cross, however, is not the last word. It is actually a new beginning. It is the beginning of a new, redeemed humanity. The Old Adam introduced sin and death into the world through his disobedience; the New Adam, Jesus Christ, introduces grace and life into the world through his obedience. The path to new life is that path marked out for us by Jesus: humble self-emptying and self-giving, filial obedience to God’s word, daily acceptance of the Cross, death to sin, unwavering hope and trust in the Lord, rising to new life in Christ, glorification of the Father. If we die with Christ, we shall rise with him to glory (2 Timothy 2:11).

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at

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Jason Mitchell

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