It must have been an incredibly exciting day! Jesus arrives in Jerusalem the last week before his impending death surrounded by disciples and throngs of strangers. But what kind of an entry was this event we remember as “Palm Sunday?” What image should we have in mind as we re-read such a familiar story? How can we possibly avoid “overhearing” this event again? I was privileged to be part of a discussion about Palm Sunday a few years ago and remember a few of the possibilities that came out of that meeting.
For the crowds who gathered that day, it must have seemed like a parade. After all, everyone loves a parade. Some garments are used as a makeshift blanket for the beast of burden. Other bits of clothing are thrown along the ground in honor of the procession. Branches are ripped from trees to pave the way for this savior. It certainly looks like a parade, and it sounds like one too. “Hosanna” cries the crowd. “Help us, save us, someone please deliver us! Bring us change!” Bring us hope! Maybe this Jesus was the one. Could there really be something here worth celebrating. Palm Sunday –- a joyous, happy parade for the crowd.
Perhaps it was a parade for the crowd, but what about those disciples entering town with Jesus. What were they thinking as they marched into the city, Jerusalem itself, with Jesus? Maybe that’s it – they were marching with Jesus. Not a parade, but a march, a military march. Was this to be the day when Jesus assumed his proper role as deliverer, conqueror, politician, king? These disciples, these followers, these “soldiers” were proud to march beside their rabbi, their teacher, their master, their king. But they just could not understand. Jesus had warned them of what waited for him in Jerusalem, and they were not ready to accept the seriousness of God’s plan, the costliness of God’s plan, the pain of God’s plan (Mark 8:31).
A parade for the masses, a military march for the disciples, but what for Jesus? How did Jesus perceive this raucous event? Did Jesus realize that some in this crowd screaming in support will soon demand his death? Did Jesus know that the disciples proudly marching by his side would shortly desert him in his hour of crisis? A parade? A march? But for Jesus, it’s beginning to sound more like a funeral procession.
O Lord, will you help us to set aside our desires, our blinders, our fears, our false expectations and see events as you do. We fear that we will miss your way. May the significance of this week cause us to renew our commitment to you – even unto death itself. Amen.