The readings for today take us through the whole range of emotions of Holy Week. We begin with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, with people cheering, laying their cloaks and palm branches on the road – that was the equivalent of a red carpet in those days. They welcomed him as king. Today the paparazzi would be there clicking away, photographing the moment for posterity. However, rather than looking at a photograph we re-enact the triumphal entry, processing around our churches and local community carrying palm branches, proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord of All.
Jesus chose the humble donkey to make his entrance into Jerusalem, he did not choose something grander as he was welcomed into the city as King of the Jews. Donkeys can still be seen today on the hillsides and in the towns of Palestine. They have no choice in the load they bear in their panniers. They may carry heavy rocks from the quarry, or wheat from the miller, or peppers and olives to the market. They bear their load without question, carrying it with patience and fortitude. One donkey and her colt 2000yrs ago had the privilege of carrying the son of God on her back as he made his grand entrance into Jerusalem.
That moment of adulation and glorification is short lived. Soon the crowd turn against Jesus and they yell for him to be crucified. I thought that celebrity was something that only existed in this day and age – the adulation of those who appear to have it all. However, the same was true 2000 yrs ago. The crowds who welcomed him into Jerusalem thought he had all the answers, they thought he was going to rescue them from the oppression of the Romans and ‘take his power, and reign.’ But Jesus was not that kind of Messiah, they hadn’t realised his true nature or what he was really offering them. Not a here and now solution to their problems, but a solution that would last for all eternity. Jesus bore his burden in more or less the same way a donkey does, his human nature allowed him to question, he had his time of doubt in the garden of Gethsemane, but nevertheless he bore his burden with patience and fortitude, praying ‘not my will but yours be done.’ He carried the burden of his cross through the streets of Jerusalem, sometimes falling under its weight. Then at Calvary, he bore the weight of the world’s sin as he hung upon the cross. His patience and fortitude held out even when he was abandoned by some of his companions. Only those closest to him remained at the foot of the cross.
Palm Sunday represents a beginning. The praise and adulation that greets Jesus as he enters Jerusalem is short-lived, the love of the crowd is superficial, it runs only skin deep. But God loves us so much that he sent his only son into the world so that the world might be saved. The true cost of loving is to see something through to the bitter end, which is what Jesus does for us by dying on the cross. However, even that is not the end the result of God’s never ending love for us is brought to fruition when Jesus rises from the dead. Through his resurrection comes God’s glorification and with it the promise of eternal life.
Today we begin our journey with Jesus to the cross, let us follow him closely every step of the way, so that on Friday we will stand close to the foot of the cross and look on him in love, not stood at the back of the crowd ready to run away in fear. Then his name will be glorified again and again, then next Sunday we will be ready to witness his resurrection in sure and certain hope that we will share in the resurrection to eternal life.