Palm Sunday

No. 76 - 25th March 2018

Driving down from Ridgewood, the traffic had come to a stop at the lights. There were a few cars ahead of me, so I was sitting just before the Police Station. Waiting for the lights to change, I glanced over to my right at what I assume is an Almond tree that was in full bloom, as though it didn’t realise that we’ve just come out of some serious snow. It was simply covered with pale pink blossom. I looked up over the top of the house behind it and saw the top of an Oak tree with its skeletal branches, looking for all the world like the middle of winter. Then beside the Oak tree there’s a Cedar of Lebanon. At least I think that’s what it is. Whatever the other two trees were saying, the Cedar seemed to think that it’s Summer all the time and never loses its needles. It was such a lovely image, as though I was seeing three seasons all at once.

Today is Palm Sunday, and it celebrates the day when the people of Jerusalem stripped branches off the palm trees and scattered them along the road to welcome a famous hero. News was spreading around that Jesus had just raised a man from the dead who had been buried four days. The crowd was wild with excitement. They laid their garments on the road in front of him as though he was visiting royalty. They cut down more palm branches and ran in front of him, waving the branches in the air and shouting “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, he who is the King of Israel!” Funnily enough, Jesus was riding on a donkey and it was deliberately full of symbolism.

There’s a passage in the Old Testament where a prophet says “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— the foal of an ass”. The prophet of course was talking about the Messiah that would one day come to rescue Israel. And the people got the message. Particularly the religious leaders, who were furious. They wanted Jesus to restrain the crowd and stop them making these grandiose claims. But Jesus just said, “Let me tell you. If I stop these people shouting, the very stones will cry out”. Why? Because Jesus was making a deliberate statement that most people there would have understood. He was saying, “I am your Messiah. God’s anointed”. And the whole of nature rejoiced at his coming.

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