The account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday is a familiar one, recorded by all four gospel writers. It’s all too easy to skim over Bible passages that we think we know well, and I sometimes try to notice a detail that hadn’t previously caught my attention and see where that leads. This time, it was the characters who got caught up in the events, but who probably weren’t close to Jesus.
There were the owners of the colt. ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ they asked. (Luke 19.33) Imagine if two strangers came and asked to take your car! ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ would be your reasonable challenge. Yet the two disciples simply said ‘The Lord needs it’, and there was no further resistance. Did the owners know that ‘the Lord’ was the man Jesus? Did they have some meaningful connection with him? Or did the Holy Spirit prompt them that they must let the animal go with these two men?
Then there were the crowds lining the road as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Many of them would have known of the miracle-maker – ‘Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him’. (John 12.17/18) The city would have been full of visitors anyway, having come up from the country for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover Feast. The increasing noise and excitement attracted a larger and larger multitude. What did those on the edge make of it all? And why were many of them so easily persuaded to change their cry from “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” to “Crucify him!”
The next day, the stall-holders and money-changers in the temple got caught up in the chaos as this man of God threw tables over and accused them of turning a house of prayer into a den of robbers. Did they simply see Jesus as a crazy person who ruined their money-making opportunity? Did they feel that he got what he deserved when he was crucified a few days later – or might some have felt convicted of their own wrong-doing?
The Pharisees too were constantly in the background, watching – “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12.19) Feeling threatened, they were determined to portray him as a trouble-making criminal.
And two thousand years later, the events of Easter will be told again in lots of different ways. Let’s pray that the truth of who Jesus was and is, and the cosmic significance of those events will impact many who are ‘on the edge’ – aware that there’s more to Easter than a spring holiday. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if . . . . ‘When Jesus entered Jerusalem (Sheffield, London, New York, Beijing . . . . ) the whole city was stirred and asked “Who is this?”’ (Matthew 21.10)
Two thousand years ago in Jerusalem, those who were curious to know more could talk to people who were closer to Jesus. Today, they can talk to . . . us!