Reflections: March 28, 2021
By Aaron T. Fenker
Others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then [they] cried out: "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matthew 21:8–9)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. They emptied the tree. They took what was pleasant and pleasing to the eye. It's almost as if they couldn't do anything else. It wasn't the branches that made them do it. It was the fruit. It was able to make them wise. That's what he said. The serpent seemed to be right, and "then the eyes of both of them were opened" (Genesis 3:7), and we all know the rest: Adam and Eve hid from God, were cast out of the garden, and were barred from the Tree of Life.
The crowd in Matthew 21 emptied the trees. They took the branches and cast them all over the road. "Hosanna!" was their cry. "Save us, Son of David!" They needed to be ready for His coming. Palm branches, the symbol of peace, were the pavement for a donkey, the animal of peace, who was ridden by Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
We want empty trees, as if His coming is dependent on our behavior. We do need to repent. Changing your behavior, putting away your icky deeds, isn't repentance. (Though you should stop all those things!) They are just fruits, signs of bad roots. Repentance is a complete change in heart, soul, mind, and strength--a change only Jesus, the Gardener of Eden, can do.
The point of Holy Week isn't the emptying of trees, isn't preparing Jesus' way. Holy Week is Jesus making His way, straight to the Cross, that He might hang upon the Tree for you. There He bears not only your bad fruit but rotten roots, too, being the most rotten tree and fruit ever in your place--"He became sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21)--to make you the very righteousness and perfection of God.
Repent of thinking you've got to empty trees to make way for Jesus. Holy Week is about His coming to fill a Tree for you and giving to you the fruits of His Cross: His water and His blood (John 19:34), His Baptism and Supper. Through these, the Spirit produces His fruit (Galatians 5), and grafts you into Jesus (Romans 11). The Tree of Life is yours because He filled the Tree for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, You sent Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross. Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Palmarum)
-Rev. Aaron T. Fenker is the pastor of Bethlehem and Immanuel Lutheran churches in Bremen, KS.
He is also the dean of theology for Higher Things.
He is also the dean of theology for Higher Things.
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