A man in a yellow shirt and several companions boarded the plane just ahead of me last Saturday. He and his entourage passed through the first class/business section and took their seats in the coach section. As he went down the aisle he smiled and shook hands with a number of other passengers.
The man in the yellow shirt was the President of Honduras. He was on Delta flight 552 from Tegucigalpa, Honduras to Atlanta. When the plane taxied to the gate at the airport in Atlanta he was greeted by several police cars, a number of other vehicles and many security personnel.
I do not know why he did not take advantage of the privileges that could have been afforded him as the leader of his country. Instead of traveling with the treatment usually given to dignitaries, he chose to be among the commoners. In the cheaper seats. Although he did not call attention to himself, the party that welcomed him at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport was acknowledgment of his status.
Yesterday Christians celebrated Palm Sunday remembering the day that Jesus chose to travel not as a ruler but as a servant. Instead of a mighty stallion of war, he rode on a lowly donkey. The Apostle Paul said he "emptied himself and took on the form of a servant." But the people recognized him and wanted to make him king. They greeted him by waving palm branches and shouting with enthusiastic praise.
This was the beginning of the Week That Changed the World. It was indeed a Holy Week. Within days the fickle crowd that wanted to crown him called for him to be crucified. Palm Sunday celebrations also have an air of anticipation because Palm Sunday points toward a cross and the empty tomb. The Last Supper, Judas' betrayal, Peter's denial, the appearance before Pilate, the mob's choice of Barabbas over Jesus, the lonely trek up Calvary's hill-all of these are consequences of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem.
Remember it was Palm Sunday when Jesus wept over Jerusalem. And I suspect there was a pain in his heart for what he knew the coming week held for him. Along with our joyful expressions for Palm Sunday we need to be reminded of that aspect of the Gospel.
As we join in worship these next few days let us not forget that Jesus "had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death-and the worst kind of death at that-a crucifixion" (Philippians 2:5-8, The Message).
Without His humble obedience there would not have been an empty tomb and a resurrection. As we prepare for Easter, let us think of ourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. Like Him, we are all called to be servants. Lord, help us to be faithful.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," March 29, 2010. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]