Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem happened at a time when the city was full of families who had gathered for the Jewish Passover. Some scholars have suggested that even as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the Roman occupying force was having its own parade of centurions coming into the city by another gate, a show of force to remind residents and visitors who was in charge and that resistance to Rome’s power was futile.
Jerusalem was indeed a busy and somewhat chaotic place that first Palm Sunday. Looking back on Palm Sundays from my childhood and youth in a Presbyterian Church, I remember much more orderly celebrations and then receiving a palm after the worship service was over! A few years back I decided to capture some of the original chaos by having children come forward at the beginning of worship, and inviting them to distribute the palms. A little more chaotic, but I also think it’s a lot more biblical!
So, to our families with children: make sure you get to church this Sunday to catch the beginning of the service, when our children will distribute palms and lead the congregation in the call to worship. Remember to bring the “fish banks”, too, as we will dedicate the One Great Hour of Sharing gifts of the children early in the service, too.
For a number of years now Palm Sunday has been called Palm/Passion Sunday in order to recognize that while Jesus was welcomed by joyous crowds, he was also entering the time of his Passion. The Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes (the late Minister of the Memorial Chapel at Harvard) wrote, “This is what the Passion is, not simply to see suffering as in a play or a Greek tragedy, but to share in suffering, to weep as Jesus wept at the brokenness of what is meant to be whole, to see a thing as it is meant to be and to experience it broken, fractured, and shattered, not just the Savior’s body but the body of the world; to suffer with indignity and humanity, to weep at injustice and crime and violence and deprivation and depravity, to enter into the sorrows of another as if they were our own, because they are our own.”