|Palm Sunday Road, Jerusalem
Today’s Scripture Passage: Mark 11: 1-11
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied the re a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Everyone loves this story. We all like a parade! When I was growing up, I used to love parades. I couldn’t wait for the week-end of the Katy Fat Stock Show and Rodeo and the parade on that Saturday. And I would spend the whole three hours watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the parade that would bring the official start of Christmas. Parades are exciting! They are beginnings. They usher in something.
We all know of this parade. We like the idea of waving our palm branches and celebrating the great and glorious King. I think I used to envision this parade with the main gates of the city open and Jesus parading down the main street of Jerusalem. In my mind, everyone stopped to watch. It was a glorious site. But if you think about it a little bit (don’t you hate it when people do that?), Jesus supposedly rode this poor little colt (or a donkey if you talk to the writer Matthew) straight down the Palm Sunday Road, straight down from the Mount of Olives, through the Garden of Gethsemane, towards what is essentially the back gate of the temple. This little motley parade probably did not go down Herodian Street and probably didn’t even draw that big a crowd. These were the people that had heard (or at least heard OF) Jesus. These were the ones who had already begun to follow him. Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan present the idea that there was possibly a whole other parade coming into the main gate and processing down Main Street, a parade with rulers and grand steeds and lots of royal acclaim. And on the other side of the city, coming into the back gates, was this small processional of underdressed commoners, a small underdeveloped equine, and a diverse band carrying palm branches.
And, it appears, this half-engaged crowd didn’t even really stay around. By the time Jesus got to the temple, he looked around. It was late and they were gone and so he and the disciples went out to Bethany (Hebrew, “House of Figs”). The other parade probably ended with an all-night party. After all, the city was bustling. The Passover was coming. But Jesus and the twelve, alone, went to the house of Mary and Martha.
So, where are we? Which parade are we watching? Are we watching the Herodian Processional, with its grand floats and amazing giant balloons, with its bands and its celebrity master? Or are we in this small minority watching a lowly donkey carry this man Jesus? And at the end, do we lay our palm branch down and go back to our business? Or do we follow Jesus to Bethany?
On this Palm / Passion Sunday, where are you? Were you there at the parade? Were you there when it was over? Where are you?
Grace and Peace,