Today is Palm Sunday on the church calendar: the day we remember Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem saddled on a donkey and being hailed as a king. It is named so because palm fronds were strewn along his path as he rode.The crowds were hopeful that Jesus was the liberating Messiah promised in many Old Testament passages, e.g. Zechariah 9:9-10
The gospel records indicate quite a lot happened in between Palm Sunday and Jesus’s crucifixion the following Friday. By that time, the same crowds who greeted him as saviour had spurned him and were ready to exchange him for a Zealot – Barabbas – and to clamour to the same Roman authorities, they perhaps thought Jesus was going to liberate them from, for his crucifixion.
I’ve always felt uncomfortable with Palm Sunday. It’s always seemed to me somewhat artificial. Sometimes we parade around in church waving palm branches and shouting our Hosanna’s much as the crowds would have done in the Biblical narrative. Jesus himself seems to have prepared for, and even welcomed this receptive behaviour. However, he did so in the full knowledge that the kind of Kingdom the crowds were affirming of him was at odds with the role as King of Love he was preparing to assume.
Where do we, too, anticipate a false or mis-leading role for Jesus; perhaps assume he will do for us something that detracts from his glorious reality? Where are we challenged to accept his Lordship when it’s not convenient or doesn’t match our expectations of him?