As a humble human
By: By Barbara Roedel
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, April 5
(At the procession with palms) Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16. (At the Mass) Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9,17-18,19-20,23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1–15:47
The four Gospels paint different pictures of Palm Sunday and Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. The Gospel of Matthew portrays lots of activity, very large crowds gathered around Jesus joyfully crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The whole city was abuzz about Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth.
Luke writes that the multitude of disciples began to praise God aloud with joy. The Pharisees demanded Jesus silence them to which Jesus responded if they kept silent, the stones themselves would start to sing!
Only John’s Gospel mentions the crowd waved palm branches as they greeted Jesus. In first century Palestine, palms symbolized victory. Children most assuredly would have been a part of the crowds joyfully running along side Jesus chanting “Hosanna in the highest!”
All of the Gospels, except Mark, describe a welcoming parade of crowds of people going out to meet Jesus as he approached Jerusalem. Only Mark stops the procession at the city gates and says that Jesus went ahead, by himself, to the temple. Mark portrays Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem as more somber, less celebratory, and places an emphasis on humility rather than the triumphal entrance depicted in the other Gospels.
Much of what Jesus said and did led up to the religious leaders’ conspiracy against him. Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. Huge crowds gathered everywhere Jesus went to hear his teaching on forgiveness, which emphasized the new covenant and God’s grace rather than the law. And Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus knew Jerusalem was on the edge of chaos as he entered the city on a donkey.
Jesus had already predicted three times that he would be condemned to death, handed over to the authorities, crucified, and that three days later he would rise. (Mark 10:33-34) As Jesus sat atop the donkey, he knew where he was going and what was going to happen.
Rather than entering as a pilgrim on foot or as a military warrior or king on a horse-drawn chariot, Jesus rode into town on a colt as a humble human. By entering into our humanness, Jesus entered into our pain, joined in our suffering, and profoundly affirmed our faith that nothing in life or death can separate us from God’s steadfast love and compassion for us.
As we begin Holy Week waving our palms and singing “Hosanna in the highest,” let us open our hearts to God’s grace as we contemplate the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord.
Barbara Roedel is the pastoral associate at St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island.