Reflection for Palm Sunday

By Revd Cathy Gale on March 26, 2021


As I prepared for today my mind went to the question – what would that first Palm Sunday have looked
like under pandemic restrictions? Would people have still gathered to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem?
Would they have worn masks and stood socially distanced from each other? Would they have got
away with shouting “Hosanna!”? And how might the security forces have reacted?

As we contemplate that crowd gathering on the first Palm Sunday I’m conscious of the many concerns
there have been with crowds gathering over this past year. There have been all sorts of reasons why
people have gathered – from protests about social issues to crowding the beaches and beauty spots
when the sun comes out. Over the past fortnight we’ve seen the vigil following the awful murder of
Sarah Everard turning horrible in its own right. And just as I’m preparing this message, peaceful
demonstrations championing the right to gather in protest in Bristol have turned violent in the blink
of an eye.

On that first Palm Sunday, there was something about Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem that caught the
imagination of that crowd that gathered. Certainly it wouldn’t have been that he looked good. Jesus
was engaged in drama, wasn’t he? Many of those entering Jerusalem with him would know the
prophesy of Zechariah 9 that the King was to ride into the city, humble and on a donkey. This crowd
became caught up with the praise of Jesus, with the emotion of entering into the holy city, with the
anticipation that Jesus would sort things out and put things right! Here was the King they were looking

Crowds can whip up excitement and anticipation. But crowds can do the opposite just as easily. There
was a similar crowd at the end of the week that bayed for blood, calling for Jesus to be crucified. Was
it just crowd fever, or was it disappointment, frustration, anger that Jesus just hadn’t turned out to be
the King they expected him to be? Fear that they were going to be stuck in this state forever?

I suspect over the last year some of the crowds that turned nasty and violent had among them large
numbers of good people who came out to support a good cause. But it has been a long, hard year.
We’ve all dealt with stresses that we’d never imagined going through. And it has changed us. Many
of us have become less tolerant than we were; many of us have found the fuse that lights our anger
is shorter than it used to be; many of us have found that keeping hopeful has become increasingly
difficult as we’ve lurched from lockdown to lockdown, restriction to restriction.

And so were those first century folk who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as a King and then, days later,
cried for his blood, or stood by and watched as he was crucified. They faced immense stress too –
living in occupied territory, waiting on God to save them, seeing something hopeful in Jesus which he
then appeared to say wasn’t God’s way. Yes, they turned nasty.

And what about Jesus? Well, he appears to say very little in all this excitement, doesn’t he? We’re
told he looks around the Temple and then, as it’s late, goes out to Bethany with his friends.

I wonder what he was thinking? I suspect he was digging deep into his relationship with his Father.
Realising that this was the time to really know what he was about. This week was make or break and
he needed to be true to the purpose that was emerging in his life. And if he was to do that, in the
midst of all the chaos, the praise and the condemn he had to find a stillness within himself, a
peace that would pass all understanding.

As we walk with Jesus towards Good Friday and Easter, can I suggest that we need to do the same –
dig deep; find God’s peace at our centre again. Once more commit ourselves to trusting him – we
don’t know what’s ahead. One year on there seems to be so much uncertainty left in this pandemic
experience. But Christ is still King. Jesus is still alive. And what he offers us is not quick and easy fixes
to our issues or the world’s problems but a sense of assurance that through the love of God our Saviour
all will be well. That was the peace that allowed Jesus to be forgiving and loving, even in death. And
it is the peace that will give us a new perspective, the ability to love again, even those with whom we

Two thousand years on the Church and Christians still carry Jesus’s message of love and hope. But we
have to know what we’re about so we don’t get swayed by the crowds of today. Take this week with
Christ to recentre and resurrect your hope and your purpose for him

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