#79: Palm Sunday

Mark 11:1–10

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,


“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Every year the pilgrim crowds poured into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. This year it was different because Jesus was one of them. The crowds would have known about his great healings and teachings and so the big questions hanging in the air were, ‘Is this the year?’ and ‘Was he the one?’

Like a boxer climbing into the ring,
A bride arriving at the church door,
A rock star walking onto the stage,
Or the accused entering the law court.
Like a rat entering the trap,
Or a blind man about to fall into the pit.

He is not blind.
He is not the pathetic victim.
He can see what is happening.

Yet still he enters,
Because he is the Lamb of God.

So he comes to Jerusalem,
Expectation and anticipation,
Laughter and worship,
Entrance, end-game and eternity.

They are waiting for him.
The Pharisees and Priests,
The rich and the Romans,
The cynics and the ‘seen it all befores’.
Blessed is he
Who comes in the name of the Lord.

The crowd are loud and joyful, Jesus is calm and collected riding not on a conqueror’s stallion but on a humble peacemaker’s donkey. The disciples are somewhere between the two. They are waving branches and singing hosannas but they are also feeling something of the gathering heaviness on Jesus’s shoulders.

Welcome to Palm Sunday.

Some years ago, I was running ‘The Christian Pub’ in the middle of Bradford. The staff were all Christians with wonderful servant attitudes and the beer was the best for miles around. One Sunday I found myself half terrified standing in front of the bar with a basket full of palm crosses and telling everyone that it was Palm Sunday, that if they hadn’t seen one for years they still remembered what a palm cross was and they were free to take one. Sunday lunchtime was a big drinking time for us, these were pub goers not church goers and I felt vulnerable and open to derision as I made my stand. I was amazed and speechless to discover half an hour later that the basket was empty.
What is it about this strange little symbolic cross that still has the power to remind and touch the human heart?

Here then is something for you to ponder, as you conjure up the picture of Jesus on the donkey and look deeply into his face, ask yourself the question, ‘Where am I in the crowd?’ Am I hanging back on the edge? Somewhere in the undecided middle? Or am I close up amongst the disciples, following and supporting Jesus?

Lord Jesus,
As I read of and think about this decisive day
Help me to make some decisions.
To decide what I think about you,
Where I am in the following crowd,
What I want to do as your supporter.
Help me to see, to remember and to become a disciple.