PALM SUNDAY REFLECTION (Matt 21:1-11)
Can these bones live? Last week we heard God’s promise of restoration to his people in exile. It was a promise of a renewed and reinvigorated relationship, but it came with a cautionary note: renewal takes time.
Today we find God’s people looking for restoration once again. Their temple and homeland were overshadowed by Roman occupation; they wanted to be free. This just might be the moment. The annual Passover pilgrimage was one of the highlights of the year and that year looked special. As the day of the festival approached and Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, excited crowds waited in expectation of something big, whilst the disciples thought their moment of glory had come.
Palm Sunday celebrations are our attempt to recapture something of the spirit of that occasion. Many of us will have joined Palm Sunday parades; palm cross in hand, donkey in our midst. Yet even the sunniest spring morning can’t fully mask the foreboding which streaks our celebration. Our palm branches form crosses which, like the hymn ‘ride on, ride on in majesty’ – remind us that Jesus is riding on to die.
At first sight it would seem that the optimism of that first Palm Sunday was misplaced. Within a week all hopes were dashed; Jesus was dead and his disciples in hiding. Those looking for a new political order would be disappointed – again. Today, as many of us too are in hiding, we see plenty of foreboding with little hope for optimism.
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, he alone had an awareness of what is coming. For weeks now he has tried, unsuccessfully, to make his disciples understand that his is the way of the cross. His coming death is not a mistake, not a failure. It is the path to the new relationship God sought with them. Over the next few days Jesus will plumb the depths of physical and spiritual pain. As events unfold the disciples will conclude that all is lost. Then and only then, with all hope gone, will Easter dawn with the promise of new life. To gain the blessings of this new life they had to let go of the old.
For those with eyes to see, hope will be fulfilled, but not in the way expected.
The Pew Sheet for the coming week is available in the Downloads section.
(Many thanks to Colin Hardy whose amazing picture of one of the stained glass windows at St Mary’s is featuring on our Easter posts)