A Reflection on Palm Sunday

Gareth our Reader writes:

Reflection for the week beginning 5th April, 2020

How do you feel when things just don’t turn out the way you expected? That is what Jesus’ followers experienced during the week that was Jesus’ last visit to Jerusalem – the week which Christians call Holy Week.

The week started on a real high. On the Sunday Jesus came towards Jerusalem riding on a donkey’s colt and surrounded by his followers. “And many spread their garments on the road, and others cut leafy branches …and those who went before and those who followed cried out, ‘…Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming.’”.  Jesus’ followers were sure that he was the one who would lead the revolt that would get rid of the Roman forces who occupied their land and the corrupt, local collaborators, and restore a just, merciful and God-fearing kingdom in place of occupation.

The early part of the week continued well as far as Jesus’ followers were concerned. He did what they expected him to do: he challenged the authorities. He did so in deed, “…Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple…” and in debate and argument.

But on Thursday things started to go wrong. Jesus had found a room where he and his close followers could eat the “Passover Meal”. This meal was a celebration of when Jesus’ people some centuries earlier had left slavery for freedom. So, the followers may have thought this would be the time to start the liberation from the Romans in earnest. Instead, Jesus spoke about betrayal and his followers forsaking him. That last idea Jesus’ followers strenuously rejected.

Worse was to come. Jesus took his followers to an olive grove just outside the city walls. There Jesus prayed whilst his followers slept. Then the betrayer, one of Jesus’ close followers came, “…with … a crowd with swords and clubs…”. The other followers were now fully awake and ready to die with Jesus in battle against the armed crowd. What they were not ready for was what followed. Jesus allowed himself to be arrested. No fight, no resistance. They were even less ready for the next day when Jesus was executed by crucifixion. All their hopes, dreams and expectations dead with their dead leader. Such is the condition in which we leave Jesus’ followers on that Friday night and throughout the next day.

What of us at this unprecedented time of national crisis? Even those of us who are usually positive and upbeat feel low at the moment. And there is much to feel low about.  But the condition in which we left Jesus’ followers is not God’s last word, as we will see in next week’s reflection. Even if we don’t see it at the time there is hope. God is with us in the mess of the world and we will see that again next week. Until then some words from the book of Lamentations in the Bible from someone who acknowledged feelings of being low but also knew, as we saw last week, that God is always the God of hope.

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Extracts from the gospel of Matthew and Mark and images from FreeBibleImages