Palm Sunday: Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani?


Emotions. This week passed quickly but it left me with mixed feelings because I was wrestling with feedback from people and the feelings that I felt that were polar opposites of each other. Though, I am happy with the outcome, I felt a sense of dread slowly creeping up on me. Perhaps, this is due to me being physically drained and that I should slow down. I should pray about the emotions that are welling inside me.

Today’s gospel is slightly longer and it goes like this,“Jesus stood before the governor, Pontius Pilate, who questioned him,“Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus said, “You say so.”And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders,
he made no answer.Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?” But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast, the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?”For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over. While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.The governor said to them in reply, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”They answered, “Barabbas!”Pilate said to them,“Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?” They all said,“Let him be crucified!”But he said,“Why? What evil has he done?”They only shouted the louder,“Let him be crucified!”When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.”
And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them,but after he had Jesus scourged,he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying,“Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. And when they had mocked him,they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.

And when they came to a place called Golgotha — which means Place of the Skull —,
they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall. But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink. After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left.Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,“You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the cross!”
Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,“He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now,and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way.

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. But the rest said,‘Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice,and gave up his spirit.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection,
they entered the holy city and appeared to many.The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said,“Truly, this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:11-54).”

The crowd had readily turned against Jesus and treated Jesus like a complete stranger. Sometimes, I am afraid that people will turn against me and I have tried to keep my distance from them. Even more so when I know that the secular world is not the most friendliest at times. Most of the time, I just keep silent but in my heart, rage is starting to consume me. I mean how could people say such things? However, I learn to cool down by taking a deep breath, shrug them off and continue to move forward.

Despite the crowd wanting to crucify Jesus, he still finds it in his heart to find mercy and forgiveness. I cannot fathom how Jesus does that but I am still trying at times to find this humility and grace to just let go of these bad opinions of others. The taunts and mockery from the crowd must have been so hurtful and terrible that Jesus for a moment taught that God had forsaken Him. This is the pain that sometimes even I feel when it is difficult to find true friends amidst all the competition and snares.

The reality is that at times, we welcome Jesus with palms while at other times, we turn against Him. These are the polar opposites and yet, he understands and patiently accepts our decision. The humble palm has taught me this as they are vulnerable and yet hardy plants. When new shoots sprout, moths and insects would come and devour the green shoots. The only choice is to spray insecticide and to keep caring for it.

The palm can easily be devoured by weeds and insects, but like all plants, it needs the human touch and the two cannot do without each other. Caring for the palm plant has given me great joy to see the green shoots sprout and mature into thick and green palm branches.

Like all living things, when a palm dies, its base begins to sprout new shoots. These can be transplanted and then new palms begin to grow again. Jesus does not forsake us and we too should not forsake him. When we feel that He is not there, it is what we are feeling, but He is always there and willing to listen to us even when no one does.

Rather than pushing Jesus away, may we walk closer with Him, holding His hand and always ready to welcome Him with a palm. A palm tree may not be the biggest looking tree around, but it provides enough shade for everyone- animals or humans. Let us not forget Jesus and despite the great pain we may have caused Him, He still says, “Come, child, I forgive you; let’s sit down and have a talk. I will always love you.”

May we continue to pray for each other and for me, especially pray that I may have the grace of understanding and patience to sustain me throughout the rest of the remaining semester. For now, I will say, come now sleep. Jesus, be my armour for sleep. Amen.

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong



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