Yesterday was Palm Sunday, when churches traditionally remember the events generally called “The Triumphal Entry”, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey, surrounded by crowds who threw down their coats and “palms” from the fields to strew his path and shouted praises – “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”. It’s easy to read it as Jesus’ ministry finally receiving the seal of popular acclaim. You can read about it in all four gospels:
Yet, I think the story is a bit deeper than that. I’m wondering about how triumphal it really was. There is Jesus, sitting on the back of a colt rather than a mighty white charger, knowing that many of those who applaud him now will be baying for his blood later that week.
After the service, we sang Onward Christian Soldiers which, I have to say, is a song I really don’t like. Who forms a “happy throng” when “marching as to war”? Only those without the compassion and imagination to think about the devestation and suffering wars cause. Even in the spiritual warfare in which we are caught up there is still so much suffering – “collateral damage”, “friendly fire” and other misnomers. It makes triumphalism stick in my throat!
Maybe the hymn I brought in as people were taking communion earlier in the service was even more appropriate than I’d thought. I’d been looking at a few of the lines and thinking ahead to our Maundy Thursday service. However, perhaps Man of Sorrows is also the mood we would have seen Jesus in when everybody else was celebrating and forgetting all he’d said about what he knew to lay ahead of him.
You’ve got to watch out for misnomers in those headings in the Bible. For example, you’ve got the “Prodigal Son”, which is really more about the Father’s love than that wayward boy. I suppose the events we remember on Palm Sunday were a triumphal procession but there was certainly a sad note ringing out against the happy refrain!
Nb. Revised from my original posting on Worship Released.