From the vicar
The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
the King of Israel!’
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey's colt!’
His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.
All four Gospels record that Jesus made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, riding as the prophet Zechariah had foretold on the back of a donkey (Matt 21: 1-10; Mk 11: 1-11; Lk 19: 28-40; Jn 12: 12-19). With this highly symbolic gesture, combining humility with the loud proclamation of the coming of God’s kingdom, he made the final showdown with the authorities inevitable. Therefore Christian tradition commemorates this event liturgically as the opening of Holy Week. It is a mystery of entry: the true king Christ enters into his own city just as when a child he was brought into the Temple. But it is also the entry of the Church into its most important season: the three greatest days of the year, devoted to the commemoration of Christ’s saving death and resurrection.
We imitate his action ritually with a blessing of palms and a procession and entry into the church building after the proclamation of the relevant gospel passage. Then in the course of the normal Sunday Eucharist the long narrative of his passion is proclaimed from one of the three Synoptic Gospels. The Palm Sunday celebration is an excellent example of how the liturgy like an icon or a medieval painting conflates many events into one. It is like the overture of an opera by Wagner, in which all the main themes of the great work that will be heard are sounded in advance. We are taken right through the coming mysteries, from the Lord’s Supper, Gethsemane, and Golgotha, to the taking down of his body from the cross and burial by Joseph of Arimathea. But the resurrection is not forgotten – the Collect proclaims it.
The mystery of Christ’s triumphant entry is a stark reminder of the fickleness of the crowd and how quickly it can shift allegiance. Almost certainly many of those shouting “Hosanna!” were the same ones shouting, “Crucify him!” only a few days later, when the triumphal procession of a king would be replaced by the howling frenzy of a lynch mob (Mk 15; 13-15). Palm Sunday invites us to enter with Jesus into the drama of his passion, death and resurrection, through which he saved the world.
Collects 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 your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Lord Jesus, true and humble king,
hailed by the crowd as Messiah:
grant us the faith to know you and love you,
that we may be found beside you
on the way of the cross,
which is the path of glory. Amen.