In the first century, people greet visiting king by going out to meet him with praise into the city. Two thousand years ago, great crowd who came for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and they came to welcome him with palm branches shouting: Hosanna which meant in Hebrew, ‘save us. Rescue us ’ Palm trees represented a free and independent Judea. While Jesus knew that he was coming for a different purpose, the shout of Hosanna by the crowd was a right word for wrong reason. To the crowd, a dead messiah is no messiah. The coming to the city for Jesus was above empire aspiration of the Judean crowd. The reflection is that while Jesus’ great crowd outside the city were shouting Hosanna, the other group of people inside the city around Pilate were asking the great question of the Palm Sunday: Who is this? They were asking about the identity and audacity of an ‘intruder,’ into political ordered life. Palm Sunday invites us to two main choices and a parade either for Jesus or Pilate.
For Jesus, Palm Sunday experience was a call to greater loyalty to God than to the crowd anti-empire political agenda. Palm and Passion Sunday takes us back to the routes Jesus took in obedience to God’s redemptive agenda from the top of the Mount of Olives into the city of Jerusalem. Walking the Palm/Passion Sunday road goes beyond tourists experience starting at the top of the Mount Olives and ending at the Eastern Gates, the path that Jesus took during his last days in Israel. Prophetic Lent calls us to a spiritual pilgrimage, a missional invasion, to walk the Palm/Passion Sunday road in truth and spirit. It is a call to be pilgrims, finding our ways through the dangerous and difficult events of passion week to the new life of Resurrection in our communities. To do this, our loyalty must go beyond political and philosophical agenda and this calls us to empty ourselves of ‘our pride, of our ambition, of our fears, and follow Jesus as he leads us deeper and deeper into the city.’
Walking the Palm/Passion Sunday road calls us to be pilgrims in our cities, marketplaces, and communities. Walking the Palm/Passion Sunday calls us to go down town, just as Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, ‘the halls of government … where the trouble really got started.’ When we walk through Palm and Passion Sunday road, ‘the normal commerce of our daily lives’ are reordered including our secular, pleasure ridden culture. Repentance is the hymn and prayer theme for walking along the Palm/Passion Sunday road. Walking along the Palm/Passion Sunday road is not without hostility, rejection, abuse and intimidation. We must remember God’s gracious word, ‘Be not afraid.’ We remember today two Egyptians churches that were bombed by the Islamic State group as worshippers gathered to mark Palm Sunday, killing at least 50 people in the deadliest attacks on the Coptic Christian minority in recent memory. Please pray for the Mar Girgis church in the city of Tanta north of Cairo and St Mark’s church in Alexandria where Coptic Pope Tawadros II had been leading a Palm Sunday service.
Life was not a perfect parade either for the great crowd that followed Jesus or for the group within the city around Pilate hence, walking through Palm/Passion Sunday road invites us to confront the difficult realities of our lives and churches rather than pretending that life is like a perfect parade when it is far from it. Walking through Palm/Passion Sunday road is the solution for the restoration of broken humanity and church decline. It is about shouting Hosanna – the right word for the right reason, evangelism for salvation of souls. To walk Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday road is not an easy feat spiritually and physically. The road is very steep and narrow. We need to wear walking shoes of the Good News to empowers us for Gethsemane prayer encounter where our Old man, the flesh would be crucified. God is calling us to walk the Palm/Passion Sunday road in the light of His word, by doing His will and announcing His imminent Second Coming.
Prayer: O Lord, use me as your donkey to spread your Good News in my community. Release me from everything that hold me down from spreading the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.