Meditation 7: Psalm 118.19-29 (Palm Sunday)

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.

This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.

I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvellous in our eyes.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.

The Lord is God, and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 118.19-29

Psalm 118 is a hymn of thanksgiving for deliverance from a powerful enemy.

The point at which we begin reading today reflects the moment when the celebration of victory reaches its climax … the great liturgical procession of triumph enters the temple, sweeping victor and people into God’s nearer presence.

It is easy for us to picture the scene because it is so closely related to the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that we recall and celebrate on Palm Sunday.

These verses overflow with victory, joy and thanksgiving, a real sense that the people’s cry of “Hosanna” (Hebrew for ‘Save us now’) has been answered, and that God’s answer is personified in their king.

Of course, for the people to have been saved there first has to have been a time of humbling and defeat. Before the king and his people can enter the gates as those wonderfully saved and accepted by God they have to have been humbled by affliction, and they have to have learnt to put their trust in God.

Psalm 118 presents us with lively scenes and profound thoughts that are framed in a community’s expression of thanksgiving for the faithful love of the Lord.

Not surprisingly, Psalm 118 is the psalm we regularly read on Palm Sunday.

As Jesus enters into the final days of his earthly Incarnation this psalm helps us to view the whole of the drama that is about to unfold before our eyes.

The faithful love of God is centred on one person – Jesus.

In preparation for the joy of the resurrection, and to prepare humanity to receive all that flows from that unique moment in human history, Jesus will journey through the darkness of suffering and rejection.

As Jesus journeys to his crucifixion, and beyond, he bears on his shoulders the cause of his Father and the fate of humanity.

Jesus is going to be tested and tried.
Jesus is going to show us what it means to trust in God alone.
Jesus, even in the midst of his agony is going to invoke God’s holy name.

Then will come the moment of victory.

After the humbling, the rejection and the agony, Jesus’ faithfulness will be rewarded with victory … a victory that will crush all that opposes the gracious and loving reign of God on earth.

The crowds of Palm Sunday will turn into the crowds of Good Friday … but they will also still be the crowds whose shouts of Hosanna can truly turn into shouts of Alleluia! (Hebrew for ‘Praise the Lord’), the word that echoes around the world on Easter Day.