I think the Gospel writers intend us to contrast the acclaim of Jesus on Palm Sunday with the cries for his death a week later. One day they are shouting how good he is. A week later they want him dead. One day he was acclaimed as one coming in the name of the Lord - he was the embodiment of the coming Kingdom of David they had eagerly awaited. A week later they howled him down.
Of course it is probable that few of the same people were in each crowd. The second crowd was stirred up by his enemies; the original "rent-a-crowd." But traditionally, on Palm Sunday we ask ourselves, "Would I have been in the welcoming crowd, and crying for his blood a week later?" And we are encouraged, aren't we, to confess that we too, are fickle.
What is the truth of who we are in the fleeting adulation and fast abandonment of Jesus by his supporters and friends?
To begin with, it seems worse than I have outlined. He is, we say, the Resurrected Lord. He is here now. In fact, I think he enters the city where we live every day. We mouth our loyalty to the church, claiming our membership, proclaiming our respectability, and enjoying it all- part of a happy Palm Sunday crowd.
But when danger threatens, when the way of Christ is less than popular, when our political leanings are challenged or our income threatened and our interests in danger-- then we are suddenly silent. Or our witness is only words which melt away like the disciples into the Gethsemane night.
And we do it daily! Christian at home in the morning. Compromised by morning tea.
But in the Gospel of John, we see Peter who fled from the garden, and later denied him three times, accepted as a disciple. We see Nicodemus who didn't understand saying a few halting words at his trial and then helping bury his body. He too is a disciple. The are fickle and weak like we are- and accepted.
In Mark there is a "young man" clad only in a burial sheet (it's not obvious in the English) who escapes from the garden naked- almost killed, bereft of everything. Is he literally the same "young man" -those are the words- who is seated in the tomb in the rich white robes of the truly powerful and bearing witness to resurrection. Weak, fickle and fleeing, bereft of everything, and yet the witness of true power.
You see, this is the truth of us, too. Despite our short lived praise on Palm Sunday, we are also witnesses to the resurrection. Not just some simplistic notion of resuscitation from the grave which really avoids death. But an idea and an experience of life which exceeds the ordinary. Which finds in the ordinary something richer beyond it, where death loses its power. Where life becomes rich and Jesus is real.
So let's be Palm Sunday Christians and rejoice, even though we know we will fail him as soon as tomorrow. Because we will find that after the shallowness of our Palm Sundays and the weakness of our Good Fridays, there is for us also the power of Easter Day.
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