The joyful entry riding to His death

Reflection - Palm Sunday 2022

Palm Sunday 2022

Photo by Brady Leavell on Unsplash

Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. It is a happy occasion, a planned entry into Jerusalem which gathered disciples and followers to hail Jesus. It might have been the start of something big.

But the liturgy does not dwell on the joyful entrance into Jerusalem of Jesus riding a donkey, fulfilling his destiny according to scripture but goes into a re-telling of the passion of Jesus according to Luke.

We leap over some issues by not dwelling at least for a short time on the entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem and the scripture readings chosen for this Sunday from Isaiah and the letter of Paul to the Philippians.

The gospel and the letter to the Philippians is written with hindsight, and Luke tells the story of what happened to Jesus. The letter to the Philippians is a profound reflection on what the life, death and resurrection of Jesus mean.  

And the reading from Isaiah of the suffering servant whose life given for others gives life to those others. We attempt to place Jesus in a place in salvation history which explains his life, death and subsequent resurrection.

No doubt, the surprise of the resurrection is a fact that needs to be understood and explained to those Christians who followed him then and follow him now.

The entrance into Jerusalem was planned, and followers or supporters hailed Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. We know he was riding to his death, but those present on that happy day were expecting something of this man: success, liberation from bondage, and who knows what else?

In retrospect, we see the crowd's fickleness, or perhaps there were two crowds or more, with their own agenda? Those who were followers of Jesus, those who were followers of the ruling elite, those who followed the Pharisees.

Perhaps this demonstration in Jerusalem of the well known or talked about preacher from Galilee caused trouble for the powers because it happened in Jerusalem itself? But they were used to demonstrations and trouble and behind the local soldiers stood the legions of Rome.

We know it all went down, fell to pieces. After the Passover meal, we experience nothing but horror and disbelief. Judas hardly features in the gospel story, but his appearance is crucial for what happens. Perfect timing for betrayal, and abandonment to the powerful authorities who take it from there. Their crowd, it would seem, was different to the welcomers of Jesus. There is a blood lust in the description of the passion of Jesus.

After everything was done - resurrection and ascension, followers with a new power in them from the Spirit of Jesus, proclaiming his kingdom, someone had to make sense of it all and try to understand what these amazing events were all about?

 We stop and ponder these mysteries of life, love and sacrifice through the Easter season.

Columban Fr Gary Walker currently lives at the Columban house in Sandgate, Brisbane.

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