On the Gospel of Matthew 21:1-11
Palm Sunday: Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem
On Palm Sunday, at the start of Mass, we read the Gospel of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. Five days before His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus sent two disciples to the nearby village in order to find a colt and to bring it to him (Mat 21:2 RSV). Jesus then sits on the colt and starts His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. We read that ‘most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road’ (Mat 21:8 RSV) shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ (Mat 21:9 RSV). We can so easily hear the prophecy of Zechariah ringing in our ears:‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.’ (Zec 9:9 RSV)
There is a sense of something extraordinary happening.
Just before this Palm Sunday many Jews started to believe in Jesus, especially after He had raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11:45). Everything seemed to be going well for Jesus and his followers.
While at the same time there is the suggestion of division, as on hearing the news of Jesus’ arrival in the Holy City the priests want to kill Jesus, forcing Jesus to go away “in hiding”. Thus at the same time there is both a tension and an expectation. The people are wondering what is going to happen and if Jesus would come to the festival (Jn 11:56). But with the entry into Jerusalem there must have been a great joy among the people who were with Jesus.
However, as we know now and will discover during the coming week, things take a sudden turn.
Imagine going through this all, it feels like a roller coaster, going up one moment, going down the next, swerving left and then suddenly right. One moment Jesus is being hailed as the Son of David the next he is being hunted.
Life can be a bit like this, one moment it seems difficult when suddenly everything seems to come together, prayers are answered and the excitement is tangible. But then suddenly, even though everything seemed to go the right way, it does not materialize, and after some time of hope and anticipation the excitement wears off and we seem to be back at the start, our hopes evaporated and our prayers are seemingly unanswered.
However, this is just our human understanding. This Holy Week is a good time to meditate on what really happened nearly two thousand years ago. It shows us that we should be patient with God and ourselves, acknowledging we don’t know everything, and that the purpose of everything is not instantly clear to us. Never-mind the human perception but let us trust in God, the divine perception. As we travel through this week the human perspective sees only defeat, failure, betrayal and denial but the greatest accomplishment in heaven and earth occurs in the middle of it all, the triumph of love! However it goes unnoticed by everyone bar the few: but we must remember that in these events Jesus purchased eternal life for us!
As there might have been a relatively small group who witnessed the spectacle of Jesus entry into Jerusalem, so also only a small group may have witnessed the events as they unfolded. But the world would never be the same again, and even though it seemed like everything was a failure from the outside, within the bigger picture of God saving the world unalterable changes have occurred!
So too we must learn to reflect on our lives, and see the bigger picture, God’s picture and learn to trust God, as Jesus did.