Reflection for the sixth Sunday in Lent (Palm Sunday)

Reading: Mark 11: 1-11

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.”

They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Reflection

I will never forget my first view of the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. To gaze across the valley at that ancient city, so full of religious and historical significance, is truly a breathtaking sight. I arrived there in the comfort of a tour bus, but for Jesus and his band of followers, it was a much more arduous journey as they ascended the steep road from Jericho through the Judean wilderness. Hot and weary from their journey, they must have felt something like euphoria as they eventually glimpsed their goal ahead.

Bear in mind this was also the week of the Passover festival, when huge numbers of pilgrims made their way to celebrate at the temple in Jerusalem. The Passover focused on God’s saving act for his people in the past, when he had delivered them from slavery and brought them to freedom.

For those closest to Jesus, there was the additional expectation of his coming Kingdom. He had taught them constantly about the kingdom of God. Indeed, so expectant were they of Jesus establishing his kingdom, that two of the twelve, James and John, had approached him and sought preferential positions when he would come in glory. Add to this the very conscious decision and carefully made arrangements by Our Lord, to ride into the city, making a royal entrance.

The sense of euphoria is conveyed in the description by Mark as Jesus made his way down from the Mount towards Jerusalem. Many people spread their cloaks on the road and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. The whole crowd was shouting out words of Messianic significance:

‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!’

There was an air of expectation and anticipation among the crowd – the King is coming to the Holy City. They must have wondered what would happen next. Nobody in that crowd could have predicted the betrayal, arrest, trial, and brutal treatment of Jesus, which would lead to a criminal’s public execution followed by a hasty burial.

Nobody, that is, apart from Jesus. He did not engage with the crowd or address them in any way during the journey down from the Mount. He sat in silence, astride the colt amid all the chanting and cheering of those around him. He knew what lay ahead. He had predicted his suffering and death to his disciples. He knew that he would be rejected and treated with contempt.

The words of Isaiah from our first reading convey the resolute demeanour of Jesus throughout the ordeal of that Holy Week:

‘I was not rebellious, I did not turn backwards. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.’

As we follow the Passion Narrative in the gospels during this Holy Week, may we walk in faith with Jesus to the cross. May we rediscover a fresh sense of awe and wonder at the power of his self-giving love and sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the whole world. May we contemplate the mystery that this was God’s intended plan to bring healing and redemption to a broken world. Then, having journeyed to the cross, may we be ready to celebrate the victory of the resurrection on Easter Day.

On this Palm Sunday, we worship the Christ who entered the city of Jerusalem, as King, the king of love and as the sacrificial Lamb of God, going to die for us. Amen.

Collect for Palm Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God,
who, in your tender love towards the human race,
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
Grant that we may follow the example
of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of intercession

Lord Jesus Christ,
you entered Jerusalem in quiet humility,
taking the form of a servant,
even to the point of death on a cross,
emptying yourself so that we might be filled.

Come again now, and establish your kingdom.

Come afresh to our troubled world,
with all its needs,
its tensions,
its problems,
and its evil.

Come again now, and establish your kingdom.

Bring healing where there is division,
love where there is hatred,
hope where there is despair,
joy where there is sorrow,
confidence where there is fear,
strength where there is weakness,
healing where there is sickness,
life where there is death.

Come again now, and establish your kingdom.

Lord Jesus Christ,
reach out to your Church and world,
despite the weakness of our faith,
and the rejection of so many.
May your will be done on earth
even as it is in heaven.

Come again now, and establish your kingdom.

In your name we pray. Amen.

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