‘Who is this man riding on a donkey with people shouting and waving branches of palm trees? Surely not another demonstration - we’ve had enough of people shouting for one cause or another!’
This might have been the reaction of the Roman authorities. Keeping law and order, especially at a sensitive time, wasn’t easy for the Roman army of occupation. I wonder what we would have made of it today.
This coming Sunday is called Palm Sunday. It is the beginning of Holy Week leading up to Good Friday. On this day Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph greeted by the waving crowds. In many churches on Sunday palm crosses will be given to the congregation to remind them of this event.
Any public demonstration was treated with suspicion by the Roman authorities. Yet, here was Jesus being greeted as a conqueror and king. The only trouble was that the people’s expectancy about conquest and kingship were very different from Jesus’ ideas. They expected him to conquer their enemies; Jesus’ hope was to conquer sin and fear and hatred. They thought of kingship in terms of ruling over earthly kingdoms. Jesus wanted to establish a kingdom of love, peace and reconciliation.
The importance of Palm Sunday is that it should encourage us to re-examine our standards in the light of Jesus’ teaching and example; standards not only are our own personal living but for the world in which we live. On Palm Sunday the crowds greeted Jesus by waving palms, yet five days later they cried, ‘crucify him, crucify him!’
How fickle their welcome was! Today we can be challenged. How much is our loyalty worth? How easily do we grow careless and forgetful of what loyalty means and be swayed by voices around us?