On Palm Sunday Jesus, who became the Christ on this day, entered the City of the prophets in triumph and promise to the thunderous applause and accolades of the inhabitants of the City of G-d. The people shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:9) which means “save” according to some commentators and is akin to the European expression “G-d save the King(Queen)!” The people lay down palm branches to welcome their king, the promised Messiah, into Jerusalem where they expected him to put on the throne of David and to oust Herod and his Roman backers.
The cleansing of the temple, Jesus’ harsh words for the Sanhedrin Council and the other Jewish leaders, and his talk of destroying the temple and raising it up again, all fed into the frenzy of the people and heightened their expectations that the prophets had been right and the Messiah had come. However, on Thursday of what is now called Holy Week, something went terribly wrong. We see a very different Jesus. A Jesus who is crushed and in despair as he cries “blood” in the Garden of Gethsemane. His own disciples and even Apostles go to sleep rather than watch out for him as he prays and later all of them will abandon and deny Jesus – one of them, the treasurer – the trusted one, will betray Jesus and give him up to a most brutal fate.
What happened? How did the light of Palm Sunday get eclipsed so suddenly and so despairingly by the darkness of Maundy Thursday? Could the prophets and the people be so terribly wrong? Christian apologists and theologians have answered that Jesus’ mission was misunderstood by the people and that Jesus came to establish a spiritual kingdom whereas the people were expecting a physical earthly kingdom. These thoughts have been codified in various doctrines of the atonement which argue that Jesus came into the world to die for the salvation of humanity, or rather the cosmos as John 3:16 puts it. Such doctrines have come under fire recently by women and others who are burdened by a modern culture of violence, destruction, and death. Some feminist theologians have also voiced concern that any argument that Jesus died to satisfy a debt owing to G-d constitutes “cosmic child abuse.”
Another answer is provided by the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC) as stated in a publication of its local North Texas Chapter which is headquartered in Dallas and under the stewardship of Rev. Mark Hernandez. According to the ACLC which advocates the “Divine Principle” teachings of the Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, Jesus did not complete the mission for which he came into the world and this was due in part to the refusal of John the Baptist to accept his role as Elijah and to not only pave the way for Jesus’ ministry, but to join that movement instead of maintaining an organization which rivaled what Jesus was attempting to do.
The Divine Principle focuses on the life of Jesus rather than his brutal death and demonstrates how that life offers a model for living today which will help people of faith to overcome the barriers and pains of living in a culture of violence and death. “The Divine Principle does not contradict the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, or other holy scriptures. On the contrary, it embraces these texts and gives further insight on how to become better people in all walks of life,” states the publication.
As Christians and other people of faith continue to move through Holy Week, part of that journey ought to be reflecting on the meaning of the cross and the horrific death which took place upon this edifice of “suffering and shame” as a traditional hymn calls it. What happened between Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday is a question all people of faith need to answer on the way to the glory of Easter Sunday.