1 April 2012Mark 11:1-11
"Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, ' Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!'" (vv. 9-10)
Today is Palm Sunday, when Christians recall Jesus' ceremonial
entry into Jerusalem a few days before his crucifixion, riding on a
donkey and surrounded by cheering sightseers.
A few years ago the BBC broadcast the story of the passion, making a very noticeable contrast between the arrival of Jesus on a humble donkey, and the arrival of Pontius Pilate the Roman governor, who came on a war-horse surrounded by heavily armed soldiers to make sure there would be no disturbances in Jerusalem over the Passover festival.
Jesus was clearly quite intentional about what sort of entry he made into the city, and had made arrangements ahead of time (verses 1-3). And while a donkey was not a high status method of transport, his actions will have had a big symbolic impact because they seemed to act out the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. Matthew's account (Matthew 21:4-5) of the event makes this clear: "This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet, saying 'Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey.'"
The meaning was not lost on the crowds, who greeted Jesus as if he was a king of the royal line of David, come to deliver the city from its occupation by the Romans. They laid both palm branches and their own cloaks under the feet of the donkey in tribute, as if Jesus had been anointed by God as their king. (Compare the story of Jehu, 2 Kings 9:13, where people similarly laid garments on the ground before him).
So, Jesus was claiming to be a very different kind of king from Pilate or the arrogance of Rome - but it was still a highly provocative act to stir up popular sentiment like this. He certainly wasn't slipping into Jerusalem discreetly, but deliberately making a bold claim aiming at controversy, so his arrival couldn't be ignored by the authorities.
Have you or a group you have been involved with ever made a visible political stand about something? What have been the problems in communicating the right message?
Can you recall a time when you were part of a crowd, and got caught up in its mood? What happened? Did you enjoy the sensation or find it worrying - at the time, and afterwards?