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Holy Week: Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday – Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
"Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Hosanna in the highest!"
- Matthew 21:6-9

It is Sunday, a Sunday filled with expectations for life to emerge and to flourish. The sun is bright; the air is gentle and warm.  A boy runs up alongside a donkey carrying a modest load:  one quiet man, his face tanned, his feet calloused and his hands relaxed in his lap upon the beast.  The boy glances up, squints, and raises a palm branch into the air.  The sun’s rays neglect clear vision of this man.  So instead of waiting for a response, the boy runs quickly ahead to lay a palm branch where only dust lies.

Who is this? The people are stirred, and the crowds gather in speculation. Excitement and intrigue are forming the moments now. The people grow into a mass, losing their individuality and all focus is shifted to Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. A pulsing crowd is anointing him. They are throwing their coats on his path; they are throwing their hopes curiously upon the man who speaks truth and lives as the wind blows. 

But, within the crowd arise harsher voices, barely audible, yet stern.  These are the voices of powerful men.  Like Ananias, this middle-aged man with his dignified gray beard.  He pushes against the people, raises a clenched hand amidst the waving palms, and with his lips tight within his gray beard he rages:  “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”  And as he does so, his chin quivers.

He urges him to do away with this absurd and unnecessary congregation. Yet Jesus cannot, for if the crowd ceases then the stones themselves will shout. This is not a decision so much as it is a movement, a tidal wave of hope and thrill.  Jesus – although he rides upon the donkey - is moved by the will of the people into the city of God, Jerusalem.     

Where will Jesus lead this crew?  To what end are they marching and where will the sounds of their clapping eventually fall?

"To the temple," cry some from their hearts, "to heal the people from their afflictions and to anoint us with a blessing from God Most High."

"To the high courts," cry the persecuted and beaten, "to give us mercy, to promote justice and to establish the Lord's rule forever."

Still others watch from a distance and wonder if he might be the one – zealous and strong enough to end the exploitation.  They are discouraged by his riding of the donkey, but still they wonder, “Might we use him to begin a new rebellion, to overthrow our oppressors?"

The people speculate.  They hope; they long.  And as they draw nearer the city, their shouts become more a chant than a passion. The emotion is now dwindling and in its place returns the practical matters and necessary decisions. Where will they find food?  Where will they all stay?

Meanwhile, the boy who ran ahead of Jesus to place palm branches before him has now returned to Jesus’ side.  He looks up again at Jesus, this time aided by a turn in the road that puts the sun behind his back.  For a moment the boy studies Jesus’ face.  His countenance is near solemn.  His eyes are fixed straight ahead of him on the road that ascends towards Jerusalem’s walls.  Jesus seems unmoved by the adulation of the crowd.  And as the people continue their chant, the boy notices tiny pools of water collecting in Jesus’ eyes and one glistening pearl runs down Jesus’ face into his beard.

It is Sunday. Joyful is the hope of the crowd; hope is the passion pushing Jesus along.  But, Jesus – stable upon the donkey – is moved in the deeper parts of his heart, soul and mind.  His journey is love, as it has been, as it will be.


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