April 10, 2023

Second Homily for Palm Sunday (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on April 22, 1951)

We are now celebrating one of the greatest events in the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ - His solemn entry into Jerusalem.

It is necessary that all of you understand what the meaning of this feast is, so that you understand what is the meaning of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, for when someone first gets acquainted with the Gospel, his thought stops at the chapter that tells about the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, stops with surprise, even with bewilderment, for they read in many other places of the Gospel that our Lord Jesus Christ always and invariably rejected from Himself all honors, all exaltation, for He was meek and humble in heart.

He forbade the demons, whom he cast out from those possessed by them, to divulge that they know who He is, that they know that He is the Son of God. Almost always, He also forbade those healed by Him to divulge about the miracle.

When Saint Peter confessed Him as Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, then Christ said to him: "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonas, for it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but My Father Who art in heaven." The apostles knew, but the apostles were also commanded not to disclose to anyone that He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.

So, everything that was before, as it were, stood in some contradiction with the Lord's entry into Jerusalem. Never before had the Lord been seen otherwise than on foot; here for the first time they saw Him sitting on a donkey. He had been seen to shy away from all honors, and now He accepted them.

What did that mean? Why is the manner of the Lord Jesus Christ's actions now, as it were, changed? Why never before in the three and a half years of His preaching did He allow anyone to divulge that He was the Messiah, the Savior of the world? Why didn't he ever talk about it?

Why? Because the time has not yet come to reveal it to people, because it was not time for Him to reveal Himself as the Messiah.

What would have happened if He hastened to reveal His Messianic dignity? You know how fiercely the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees fought against Him. Could they, then, at the beginning of the Savior's earthly activity, tolerate Him proclaiming Himself the Messiah?

No way! This would only increase their hatred and enmity against Him, would lead to an early, untimely death from their evil hand. Then, before the Lord entered Jerusalem, the time had not yet come to declare Him Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah.

And now it has come. The Lord knew when it was necessary to reveal to all the people His dignity as the Christ, and the Lord's entry into Jerusalem was intended to do just that: to reveal Jesus as Savior, Son of God, and Messiah.

How, in what form was this great work accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ? Not with great glory, not with the glory that the Messiah should have received if He had been what the Jews considered and expected Him to be; if the purpose of His coming was only to reign forever over the people of Israel, to set them above all other peoples and become an earthly king.

After all, the Savior said at Pilate's trial in response to Pilate's question whether He is a king: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

If He had sought a kingdom from this world, if He had desired to be that Messiah, the great king that the people of Israel expected, then, of course, He would not have entered Jerusalem in such a poor, humble form.

Was it not among those who believed in Him, among those who deeply revered Him, a large number of the rich and noble, who, at the first hint of Him, could furnish the entrance to Jerusalem, like the entrance of a king: give magnificent horses, chariots that would accompany crowds of people, as they accompanied in Rome great commanders who won glorious victories over their enemies? They were awarded the so-called triumph. This procession of the victor was full of great glory, full of splendor. The victor stood on a luxuriously decorated chariot harnessed by four magnificent horses, holding high his proud head, crowned with a laurel wreath, and received signs of admiration and glorification from everywhere. Troops marched ahead with loud music. And behind the chariot were chained kings and leaders of the kingdom that the victor had conquered.

Could the Lord Jesus Christ have made His entrance like that? Oh no, oh no!

All earthly glory is worthless and disappears like smoke, and all those who were awarded a triumph in Rome have long, long been forgotten by people. There is another glory, immeasurably higher than the glory of victors: there is the glory of valiant humility, meekness and virtues, for these great spiritual qualities are immeasurably higher than all military and civil merits and any human glory, insignificant before the glory of the meek, humble, full of love and virtues.

The Kingdom of Christ was not of this world, it was the Kingdom of God. And His glory was to be the glory of God. And He acquired this glory in His humble procession on a donkey, on which He sat, not proudly raising His head, but lowering it low and watering His holy cheeks with streams of tears.

It was now timely to open up to the people of Israel as a humble and suffering Messiah, as a servant of Jehovah, as a Servant, who is quiet and meek, whom the Heavenly Father holds by the hand, who “will not break a bruised reed, and will not quench a smoking flax” (Is. 42:3) .

This was the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem. Let us think, would anyone who would have been in the place of the Lord Jesus at this moment of His glorious entry into Jerusalem, who would have striven for earthly glory and honors, for royal power, used the enthusiasm of the people caused by the greatest miracle of the resurrection of the dead on the fourth day after death - wouldn't he really use such enthusiasm of the people in order to truly reign?!

Oh, how easily Christ could do it! Oh, with what fear and confusion did His enemies look at His glorious entrance into Jerusalem! How they trembled, thinking: will he really become king, will he really become our ruler?

And the Lord did not need it, for His Kingdom is not of this world.

He sat on a colt accompanied by a donkey and wept bitterly... Why, why did He weep bitterly?!

This is explained by His own words addressed to Jerusalem, which were heard by those around Him: “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42).

Oh, if you, Jerusalem, on this very decisive day for you, knew what serves your peace: oh, if you knew that I am the Messiah who came to save you, that I am not your king on earth, but the King of Heaven! If only you knew!.. But it is hidden from your eyes.

The Lord knew what the people who rejected Him, crucified Him on the cross, for rejecting Him, for crucifying Him, would have to endure.

He knew that Vespasian and Titus would come, lay trenches around Jerusalem, subject it to the unspeakable horrors of the siege, the description of which we read from the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, a contemporary of these events.

The terrible siege of Jerusalem was indescribably terrible: mothers killed and boiled their children to eat them. Jerusalem was so destroyed that no stone was left unturned. The Jerusalem Temple was destroyed, never to be rebuilt.

Christ wept for this.

Oh, if you, Jerusalem, even on this day you knew what serves for your salvation ... "But now they are hidden from your eyes."

The people rejoiced, the people shouted, waving date branches: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!" (Matt. 21:9).

The people spread their clothes under the feet of the donkey on which He rode, the children exclaimed, praising God.

And in their dark souls the scribes, Pharisees, and high priests were tormented, indignant, and, unable to stand it, said to the Lord: “Forbid, forbid them: you hear what they are shouting.”

Jesus says to them: "Yes. Have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise?'" (Matt. 21:16).

And the evil people fell silent. They wanted, they asked the Lord to forbid glorifying Him.

And what did the Lord say? - "... if they are silent, then the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:40).

For such a great event that you see cannot be silent - even stones cannot be silent.

So, the people rejoiced, and the scribes, the chief priests, the Pharisees were torn with anger and indignation. Why did they hate the Lord Jesus, why did they crucify Him? For this and because they considered Him a violator of the law of Moses.

The law of Moses was for them an indisputable, absolute holy truth, and anyone who violated the law was considered the gravest criminal. They were indignant that the Lord Jesus Christ healed the sick on the Sabbath day; more than once, more than once they expressed their indignation. Let me remind you of one such incident: the Lord entered the temple and saw a man with a withered hand, ordered him to go out into the middle and, turning to the scribes and Pharisees, asked: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?" (Luke 6:9). They were wickedly silent.

Then the Savior commanded the man to stretch out his withered hand, and it suddenly became healthy. And the scribes and Pharisees raged with anger, seeing this miracle.

What a perversion of the human heart: instead of tremblingly glorifying God, who works such miracles, they were imbued with furious malice. They did not understand, could not understand that the Lord had come “not to destroy the law of Moses, but to fulfill it,” i.e., to supplement it; that He is Lord of the Sabbath. They did not understand that His teaching not only did not destroy the law of Moses, but also exalted it immeasurably. They did not understand quite a lot of what Jesus was saying. They did not even understand the completely unusual, exceptional miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus four days. Why is it so, why did the people rejoice, and they were angry?

We find the answer to this in the holy prophet Isaiah: "Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed” (Isaiah 6:10).

They turned to stone in their hearts, blinded their eyes, closed their eyes and did not want to see the pure, the great, the holy.

Oh, how you accursed ones, seeing the procession of the Lord Jesus on a donkey, the foal of a donkey, did not remember the words of the prophet Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9).

Oh, how did they not remember that?! How did they not be struck by the picture of the procession of the Lord on a donkey, the foal of a donkey, when they saw it with their own eyes?! Therefore, they did not remember that they had turned their hearts to stone and blinded their eyes, so that they would not see with their eyes and would not know with their hearts. Let us recall the words of the Holy Apostle Paul about the letter that kills: “... our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

The enemies of Christ were committed to the letter of Scripture, not understanding the spirit of Scripture, which is why they were dead by a letter that kills. We are all called to serve the Spirit, not to the letter that kills. And the enemies of Christ perished in their ministry, for they were servants of the letter that kills.

Let us not be servants of the letter, let us be servants of the Spirit of Christ!

May it never happen to any of us that the words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ at the entrance to Jerusalem are applicable to us: "But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42).

And in the life of every person there are such moments when it is necessary to remember these words of Christ. It happens that when a person follows the wrong path, the mercy of God stops him, stops him with some kind of shock, some kind of misfortune or illness, and then, as it were, says to him: “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!” (Luke 19:42).

It happens to each of us that the Lord stands at the door of our heart and knocks slowly, waiting to be opened and let Him in - knocking like a beggar at the door. Oh, woe, woe to us if we do not hear Christ's quiet knock, for at this moment we should think that those words of Christ apply to us too, which caused torrents of tears from His Divine eyes: "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!"

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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