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Palm Sunday



The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book this year is called Failure – what Jesus said about sin, mistakes and messing stuff up.  Have you ever sinned, made a mistake or messed anything up? I certainly have! And I find it immensely comforting to know that God loves me anyway. He doesn’t expect me to be perfect, he knew I would get things wrong, and he loves me so much that he made it possible for me to have salvation instead of condemnation, and experience grace and forgiveness rather than punishment, again, and again, and again.  That, in essence, is the message of the gospel, beautiful in its simplicity.

Today, on Palm Sunday, we think about the crowds shouting “Hosannah!” to Jesus. The same crowds who, a few days later would be calling for him to be crucified. Was this praise and adulation therefore a failure of judgement? Did they get it so wrong today? Or did they get it wrong on Friday? Both can’t have been right!

Many involved in the Jesus journey made mistakes of judgement, got things wrong, misunderstood. Not just the crowds on Palm Sunday or Good Friday. It happened all the time. The religious leaders of the time failed to recognise Jesus for who he was. His parents failed to keep an eye on him as a child and left him behind. The disciples failed to ‘get it’ frequently.

Remember when the disciples failed to heal a young boy, Jesus did heal him, and used it as a teaching moment. Martha failed to keep her cool when Mary didn’t help with the washing up, again, Jesus gently used it as an opportunity to help her grow in understanding. There are many more such examples!

So many biblical characters lived through failure.  The disciple Peter surely did when he denied knowing Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times. We will reflect on that this week. In fact he had failed a few times before – remember the walking on water, or not, incident?  But Jesus gave him a fresh start, a chance to try, try and try again. Time and again Jesus demonstrated grace and understanding, setting him on the right path, having grown through the mistake or missed opportunity, and he did it at the end too, similarly with Thomas, who failed to believe, but was given the opportunity for faith..

We rarely set out to fail, but we do so often, due to ignorance, weakness or our own deliberate fault. We get things wrong, we fall short, we let others down. We sometimes feel that we have let ourselves down, and let God down. The good news is, that God picks us up.

We have an opportunity today, both to commit to following Jesus once more on his journey to the cross, but also to re-commit to obediently following him where he leads us in life more generally, to let him pick us up if we feel we have failed, made bad judgments, got some things wrong.

We are always on a journey as we venture through life, as we forge new paths, and we can make that journey following Jesus, or going our own way.  Where he calls us to walk might well take us to a different destination from the one we expected – that’s risky, but potentially life-changing, an adventure worth pursuing, whatever it might cost as we’re formed and refined along the way, becoming more fully the kingdom people we are called to be, learning through our mistakes and failures.

Jesus endured the cross with hope.  We are called to consider him this week, to follow him into trouble, controversy, trial and death, to reflect on his anguish in Gethsemane, his last supper with his friends, his silence in the face of false accusations, and his excruciating torture.  To reflect on our own lives, our part in this story, our sin that contributed to it, our journey of faith and forgiveness, our hopes in the midst of failure, confusion and doubt. 

We know of course what comes at the end of the week.  That by this time next week we will be celebrating the resurrection, hopes fulfilled, promises faithfully kept.  But let’s not fast-forward.  Let’s live this story fully, courageously, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

As we remember what could be perceived in the world’s eyes as ultimate failure – crucifixion, we will know that what was seen as failure, was in fact the moment of victory.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’

This was the moment of salvation, central to our faith. This is why we do not lose heart, why we persevere, why we are brave to try new things, why we let God pick us up when we get it wrong. It’s OK to live Palm Sunday fully as well as living Holy Week and then Easter. It’s all part of the rich pattern of life in its ups and downs. But failure is never final. Love wins.


  1. When have you made a wrong judgement, that you had to revisit? What did you learn?
  2. Where do you fit in the range of emotions expressed on Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter right now? How can you let God in as we engage this week?
  3. What does the hope of Easter resurrection mean to you, and how will it sustain you through the week ahead?
Page last updated: Wednesday 22nd March 2023 2:35 PM
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