Irony of Palm Sunday

The painting is a mural by Giotto di Bondone made in 1304-06 on the walls of the Scovegni chapel in Padua, Italy. It shows Christ approaching Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, while people greet Him as King.

...most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road.

Waving of the palm branch was reserved for Kings. It showed  honor, respect and power. It was done to extol the victorious. With the spreading of the coats and waving of the palm branch, the crowd even shouted

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
The King of Israel!
Hosanna in the highest!

They hailed him King! It was a triumphant entry! In fact these verses are one of the few where the Gospels record Christ's glory being recognized on earth. Nowhere else in the gospel story was He treated like a King. I grew up seeing this image of Christ on a donkey every Palm Sunday. The image caught my attention when I was younger since I couldn't understand nor accept its irony. The only event where He was treated like a King. YET a king on a donkey and praises from people that was short lived. It is an image of irony for He did not come to be King. He knew fully well that The Hour was coming. That these were the last days and yet He went on and rode in Humility. How painful it must have been for Him to hear their praises and at the same time know that in the end they would demand His death on the cross.

I always wondered... why such jubilant praises and yet we see how it ended with people shouting "crucify!" all within a week. Even if they saw and testified Christs work of miracles and personally heard His message they still did not get it. They may have praised Him for the wrong reasons - their view of the Messiah may have been limited. They were longing for a "Messiah" that would restore their glory as a nation. They were longing for a political leader to overthrow the Romans but Christ *The Messiah* had much more to offer. 

Jill Carattini, writing for A Slice of Infinity devotional, has some sobering words regarding Palm Sunday:

It is this drama that is still religiously enacted. What I long to imagine is a fickle crowd - an illustration of the power of mobthink, or a sign of a hard-hearted people - only reminds me of my own vacillations with the Son of God. How easily our declaration that He is Lord become denials of His existence. How readily hands waving in praise and celebration become fits raised at the heavens in pain or hardship. Like a palm laid down and forgotten, the honor we bestow on Sunday can easily be abandoned on Wednesday.

I grew up waving that palm branch and even repeating the words "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." I remember it being a joyous occasion. Christian churches commemorate Palm Sunday as a praise gathering. A gathering that symbolizes the welcoming of Jesus. But reading the account gave me the opportunity to try and imagine myself as one of those original palm-wavers welcoming Christ with praise.  For me it is a reminder that I could have been one of the Jews exalting Him and giving Him glory but quickly turn my back when situations get tough or when pushed by this enticing world. It is a reminder that though I try and follow Him, I will always fall short and miss the mark. But despite my volatile nature or my natural tendency to sin - Christ continued on and brought me to the Cross. 

** May I use my early mornings this coming Holy Week to ponder on the events that led to the cross. Want to read along with me? You might want to choose a particular gospel to read or you might want to read the events from different accounts. Maybe start at Matthew 26?

Read slowly, straight from The Word. Think, ponder and pray from your own words.

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