Skip to main content

Coats & Palm Branches

Our reading for Palm Sunday is from Mark 11:1-11.  Jesus had just stayed with friends in Bethany and was making his final trip into Jerusalem.  As they neared Bethphage, about two miles from Jerusalem, he sent his disciples to get a colt from the village.  He rode the colt into the city of Jerusalem, greeted by a large crowd waiving palm branches and shouting Hosanna!  On the surface, what a strange story.  We need to look at the deeper meaning behind these things to really understand what is happening.

Jesus asked for a donkey that had never been ridden and this little detail is packed full of symbolism.  At the time horses were only ridden for war, so when a king rode into the city on a donkey, it was a sign of peace.  Jesus was reminding the people that he was coming in peace, not to start a war with the Roman occupiers.  When Solomon entered Jerusalem to be crowned as the third king, he rode in on his father King David's donkey.  It was a sign of the continuation of the royal line.  Jesus rode a donkey that had never been ridden before, demonstrating that his rule had no predecessor.  In addition this fulfilled the prophecy of Zachariah in Zachariah 9:9 where he said the messiah would ride into Jerusalem riding on a donkey as a humble king of peace.

The symbolism was not missed on the crowd, and since Jesus was already loved by the people, they responded to him as their king.  As he entered the city people laid down their prayer shawls like a red carpet.  The people of Jerusalem had done this once before on the day Jehu was proclaimed king.  Jehu destroyed Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, who had tried to kill the prophet Elijah.  The people hoped that Jesus would respond by freeing them from the similarly oppressive forces in their lives.

They waived palm branches in the air as a greeting.  The palm was a sacred symbol in both Jewish and Greek cultures.  It was a sign of victory, providence, and eternal life.  In the Jewish mind it reminded them of Sukkot, the festival of booths.  Each day of the festival they would parade around the city with fresh cut palm branches and they made little booths or tents to live in out of them.  The festival was a reminder that they once wandered the desert, but God gave them a home and provided for them.  The people were welcoming the King to his home, and hoping he would return their home to them from their oppressors. It was a sign of celebration and victory, as well as a wish for an eternal rule to the line of King David.

They called out to him "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in God's name! Blessed the coming Kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in highest heaven!"  If any doubt was left to what the people were asking of Jesus it should end here.  Hosanna is a word that is a desperate plea for salvation, it means "save me, please!".  They were begging for salvation, proclaiming him king, and looking forward to the continuation of the line of King David.

After this amazing entry they were expecting a clash with the Roman government and the religious rulers; but instead, the scriptures tell us that Jesus entered the Temple, looked around, and then left to spend the night in Bethany.  Talk about false hype...the people must have been devastated, their hopes crushed in this anticlimactic moment. If you ever wondered how a week later they could call for his crucifixion, the answer is found in this moment.   Hurt people hurt people.

Do you ever find yourself frustrated with your current situation?  Looking around for hope and wondering why God isn't doing anything?  Can you imagine seeing your savior walk into the center of oppressive power and then walking out to go spend time with his friends?  Would you feel crushed?  Do you feel crushed? Remember that the story didn't end here, the victory battle is next week.


Popular posts from this blog

Death Will Lose it's Sting

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 1 Corinthians 15:51-57. In these verses, Paul reveals a mystery, that in the end some will be transformed, given a new body, instead of facing death.  In other words death is not one of life's two certain terms.  It seems taxes may be the only guarantee.   " this world nothing can be said to be certain, except  death and taxes ." - Benjamin Franklin. Ok, all jokes aside, these verses are difficult to read.  Paul looks forward to a time when death will have no victory, it will have lost its sting.  But today, we are in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by death.  Many are scared for their lives, or their loved ones, and too many have already been lost.  Death does not seem to have lost its sting at all, it feels as if it is closing in. When I worked in wilderness therapy I remember holding a child who was desperately trying to kill himself.  We cried together as he struggled to end it, and I struggled

The Return Threshold

  As we come near the end of our weekly series on the Hero's Journey, today we will cover "The Return Threshold".  In this stage, the Hero has succeeded in their quest and now they are coming back to their old world.  Joseph Campbell calls this the "ordinary world".   The return to the ordinary world usually includes some type of challenge.  Sometimes an enemy must be challenged, but sometimes the enemy is the ordinary world itself.  As we have followed the hero's journey we have seen the hero change, what was once important is no longer important.  While the hero has changed, the ordinary world has not.  The ordinary world holds values that the returning hero has abandoned for something greater.  This can cause tension as the hero tries to return as a changed person. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, we see the Hobbits finally return to their home in the Shire.  Unfortunately in their absence Saruman and his orcs have taken over the Shire and must be defeat

Master of Two Worlds

  This week we come to the second to last stage of the Hero's Journey.  Campbell called this stage "The Master of Two Worlds".  In this stage, the hero tries to integrate what they learned and gained on their journey with their old "ordinary" world.   Albert Einstein once said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."  This explains the challenge the hero must face in this stage.  All that they learned and gained must be fully mastered and the test of this mastery is being able to use it in the ordinary world.  They must simplify it so that the uninitiated can benefit from it, just as Einstein encouraged the mastery of complex ideas into simple explanations.   In the Star Wars Trilogy, this stage happens off-screen after the film is over, but before the new movie begins.  We learn in the newest trilogy that Luke created a school for Jedi, taking the wisdom he gained from his journey and sharing it with others.  In