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Palm Sunday Reflection: Did Anyone Know?

Palm Sunday Reflection: Did Anyone Know?

Sunday March 28

In the first of a series of reflections for Holy Week, the Rev Roddy Hamilton asks whether anyone in the crowd on the first Palm Sunday understood what was happening

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

(Mark 11: 1-10 NIV)

Did anyone know?

Did anyone know what this was about?
A small, rag-tag crowd joining in the ‘Hosannas!’
without knowing what any of it meant,
following someone who tempted a future
that seemed to speak of renewal and freedom.
They were daring to believe in something
they did not understand.

It was a triumph for faith.


There was no great crowd,
not according to Mark.
It was the same group of people
who had gathered round Jesus on the way,
and in the centre of them
rode a silent saviour,
the Word
now lost for words.

Others tell the story differently.

Others expose a subtle kingdom
found in dramatic parable,
of heaven conspiring against empire
and the clever divine donkey-rider
facing those who would soon kill him.

Not Mark.

This was a crowd
who found on their lips the word:“Hosanna.”

If you say it in the aisles of churches,
it feels celebratory,
joyous and victorious.
It feels like a word that belongs to a Saviour
who has already won;
a word to use when you know this ends in resurrection.

Not here.

Here is a clash of endings:

Cry ‘Hosanna’ and you are pleading,
yes pleading,
‘Save Us!’
It is not a happy word.
It is a cry from a tortured soul,
torn by the experience of injustice.

But here this rag-tag crowd
focusses their aspirations
on someone who will pull them through,
who will simply turn the tables on the oppressors.

It is a recognition of Messiah.

And Jesus fails to live up to that.

Jesus triumphal entry fails that small crowd.

There are fewer things, surely,
that could make a crowd more angry
than having lifted up a hero,
a saviour,
a messiah,
who says nothing,
and turns out will refuse to save you
at least the way you wanted.

And can you hear the word hosanna
sound more and more like ‘Crucify’,
a word shaped by disappointment,
and anger?

It is a word we can understand
when we do not understand anything else,
and when we are on this side of that word:
when we find ‘hosanna’ slipping away
and ‘crucify’ more comfortable,
then we are in that place where
faithfully holds us
when we have let go
our faith in God.

a triumph of faith.

The Rev Roddy Hamilton is minister of New Kirkpatrick Parish Church, Bearsden. His series of reflections continues tomorrow, and each day of Holy Week

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