18 August 2014John 12:12-19
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” (v. 13)
We are in for a dramatic week! John's Gospel takes us into the final days of the life and ministry of Jesus and the tension grows all the time as we move from Palm Sunday to the last meal before Jesus' betrayal. There are recurrent themes: a polarisation between those who are 'for' Jesus and those 'against' him, disciples who never seem to understand what's going on, a developing plot against Jesus and then Jesus himself, troubled but faithful to his mission.
Palm Sunday introduces all these dramatic elements as Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey and is greeted by a crowd chanting words from Psalm 118: 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord - the King of Israel' (Psalm 118:26). This is a royal procession, but not the kind that the crowd - or even the disciples - are expecting. Only later, after the cross and resurrection of Jesus, do the disciples put two and two together and realise what has been going on.
The story of Jesus entering Jerusalem must have been an important one for early Christians as each of the four Gospels recounts it. John's is briefest of the four, butadds its own touches. It is John alone who gives us the detail of palm branches and who links the enthusiasm of the crowd with the raising of Lazarus.
John's Gospel not only tells us about the life of Jesus and its deep significance, it also connects us with the lives of the Christian communities facing up to the challenge of Christian worship and witness at the end of the 1st century. It helps us to understand where the original disciples had been slow and foolish. And it reminds Christians how much they owe to the language and rituals of Judaism.
- What has been your experience of being caught up in an immense crowd (perhaps like the ones that have recently greeted the Tour de France)? What were the dynamics of the crowd - positive and negative?
- Think of a situation that you didn't understand at the time, but which only became clear later.
- Imagine yourself part of the story of Palm Sunday. What is your response to Jesus?