Our usual expectation for this Sunday would be to see children in the church, along with the Sunday school staff, circling the sanctuary as we sing Hosanna, Loud Hosanna. Unfortunately, not this year.
It wasn’t known as Palm Sunday that first time. It was a regular beginning to Passover week. Jerusalem was beginning to fill up for the celebration centered on the nation’s release from Egyptian captivity.
If anything was different that year it was the buzz in the air about a prophet in the area. Could he be the Messiah spoken of for so many generations? The chosen one who would redeem the nation of Israel and establish self-rule once again.
The word on the street was that he had healed the sick, fed large crowds with meager provisions and most recently raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. Although that last rumour was probably stretching it a little.
Suddenly in the middle of the day, there he is. Riding on a donkey surrounded by his entourage of close followers. Those who have noticed his arrival in Jerusalem have begun to break off palm branches and lay them along the path he is taking. And so, we have the beginning of what will be known as Palm Sunday.
It’s an interesting motley crew of different participants in this one act play.
First there’s the crowd, getting excited about Jesus arrival and hoping that he will bring to fruition the great prophesies from their past.
The disciples are caught up in this same excitement, although they’re thinking of their role in Jesus new government; thinking about which portfolio he will assign to them as he sets up his kingdom.
The Roman soldiers are on edge, wondering if they will soon be in conflict with this large Passover crowd, and have to use their short swords to restore order.
The religious leaders have been anticipating his arrival, plotting how to rid the nation of this rabble rouser. Not because they are particularly bad men but because the Romans allow them to worship at the Temple and keep their Jewish laws. In the past other nations have never allowed this. If Jesus has his way, he may instigate a tearing down of the Temple with misguided plans to build it up again in three days. That statement, if no other, tells them that they are dealing with a delusional man.
Then there’s Jesus. Coming into town on a donkey. Doesn’t he know that conquering kings such as Caesar enter on a white stallion?
But Jesus is the man of peace.
He has indeed come to establish his Kingdom, but it has nothing to do with Jerusalem in this time and place. His Kingdom will be greater in scope. His Kingdom will encompass the whole world and it will be initiated through sacrifice, not the sword.
It will be founded on love not power.
Jesus is the only one who knows how the week will end, in his suffering and death. Jesus is also the only one who knows how next week will begin. His miraculous resurrection which will change the world forever.
I wonder what’s going through his mind as he is witness to all the revelry, aware that all of these people, other than the Romans and his own Jewish religious leaders, will be devastated by the end of this week.
We’re told that we are facing another couple of weeks of isolation and frustration and for some fear and anxiety. But as the songwriter wrote:
Then came the morning
Night turned into day
The stone was rolled away
Hope rose with the dawn
This Coronavirus stone will also be rolled away, and we will celebrate morning again. Hope will rise as the dawn, as night is turned into day.