Today the Christian Church in the West is keeping Palm Sunday, as we recall Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem - the King entering his city victoriously. The crowd who accompanied Jesus shouted joyfully "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" They cut branches from the palm trees (hence Palm Crosses) and put their mantles on the road for Jesus to pass over them as he rode on the back of the donkey.
Jesus’ followers believed that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to be made king - a civil as religious leader. They believed that Jesus was going to free the Jews from the rule of the Romans, and that the glorious freedom of Israel was finally going to be established. They believed that God’s promises in the Old Testament as they understood them were to be fulfilled. That is why they were so excited!
Today also marks the beginning of Holy Week, during which we follow in Jesus’ footsteps during the last days of his mortal life. We follow him to the Upper Room where he washed his disciples’ feet and instituted the Last Supper; we follow him to the garden of Gethsemane and see the anguish he suffered; we follow him to the Temple and hear the Sanhedrin’s charges against him; we follow him to the governor's palace and listen to Pilate’s verdict; and finally we follow him to the foot of the Cross on Good Friday.
How quickly things change. The joyful cries of one crowd turn to the murderous cries of the mob: “crucify him!” I find those words difficult to say. Crucify him.
Those who came with Jesus to Jerusalem must have been absolutely devastated. Seeing their king crowned with a crown of thorns and enthroned on a cross. Where on earth could they find any hope in this dire situation?
Most of Jesus’ closest followers even had placed all their trust and confidence in the man Jesus. The one who died on the Cross. They had not understood Jesus’ teaching of how he was the fulfilment of God’s promise in the Old Testament, that his death on the Cross would free everyone from the rule of sin and death, and establish the glorious freedom of the kingdom of God to all believers. This was God’s plan from the beginning of time.
In these days of rapid change and great uncertainty, when each and every one of us is concerned, we would do well to note the example of the few that did not desert Jesus: the ones who gathered and wept at the foot of the Cross, the ones who buried him, the ones who saw the empty tomb and only then began to understand the Truth. God does not give up on us, and so we should not give up on Him. Rather, even at the darkest hour, where else can we place all our trust and confidence, but in God? He who is with us always and will not disappoint us, but will ultimately reward us with a crown of glory in his never-ending kingdom.
You may wish to pray these words written originally by JM Neale, or you may like to sing them, or simply reflect on them:
1. O Thou, Who through this holy week
The path of suffering trod,
Our sins to heal, our souls to seek,
And bring us to our God.
2. We cannot comprehend the woe
Thy love was pleased to bear:
O Saviour Christ, we only know
That all our hopes are there.
3. Then grant us, Lord, this week to trace
Thy passion and thy love,
And by thine all-inspiring grace
Uplift our hearts above:
4. Beyond the pain, beyond the cross,
The Christ of glory see,
And count the things of earth but loss
To gain our heaven in thee.
God bless you.