Reflection – Palm Sunday

Here’s my reflection for Palm Sunday

If you’d like to join in our online worship follow this Zoom link. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85061262911?pwd=SjFoODcvOVdFZUhTengxRVRkNzJPUT09

I am preaching this week – our worship session starts at 11.00 British Summer Time – the clocks go forward on Sunday!

Mark

Sunday 28 March 2021 – A Reflection

Jesus is coming!
From the mountainside, from the seaside,
from the homes of the rich
and the company of the poor,
from the bedside of those who are sick,
Jesus is coming!
Along dusty roads,
with a ragged band of travellers,
Jesus comes to Jerusalem,
Jesus comes to worship.
Will we greet him with Hosannas?

Opening Prayer

Let’s pray:
We have come to meet you today, Jesus.
We don’t know quite what to expect.
We think we know what we need,
how you can meet our needs.
But we come humbly, laying our coats before you.
It’s your call.
Reveal to us who you are,
how you can be a Saviour in our lives,
a Saviour in our world today.
Come Lord Jesus!

The Lord’s Prayer

Here is the quiz. You’ll find the answers at the end. There is a link between the answers

1Vegetable  – Latin name Helianthus tuberosus_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
2Home of the Gods in Greek mythology_ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _
3Popeye’s girlfriend_ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _
4Band who had a hit with ‘Y.M.C.A.’_ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _
5Dr Who’s arch-enemy_ _ _  / _ _ _ _ _ _
6A type of revolver_ _ _ _ / _ _
7Ponchos or capes?_ _ _ _ _ _
8Telling fortunes by looking at people’s hands_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
9Hebrew word meaning ‘Save now!’_ _ _ _ _ _ _
10Underground station between Blackfriars and Embankment_ _ _ _ _ _  

Here’s the first Bible reading

Mark 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem, near the towns of Bethphage and Bethany, they came to the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of his disciples on ahead with these instructions: “Go to the village there ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a colt tied up that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. And if someone asks you why you are doing that, say that the Master needs it and will send it back at once.”

So they went and found a colt out in the street, tied to the door of a house. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders asked them, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”

They answered just as Jesus had told them, and the crowd let them go. They brought the colt to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the animal, and Jesus got on. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches in the field and spread them on the road. The people who were in front and those who followed behind began to shout, “Praise God! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! God bless the coming kingdom of King David, our father! Praise be to God!”

Jesus entered Jerusalem, went into the Temple, and looked around at everything. But since it was already late in the day, he went out to Bethany with the twelve disciples.

I want us to listen to a song now. I love this song – It’s by Emmylou Harris and it’s called Jerusalem Tomorrow.

Man you should have seen me way back then
I could tell a tale, I could make it spin
I could tell you black was white, I could tell you day was night
Not only that I could tell you why
Back then I could really tell a lie

Well I’d hire a kid to say that he was lame
Then I’d touch him and I’d make him walk again
Then I’d pull some magic trick, I’d pretend to heal the sick
I was takin’ everything they had to give
It wasn’t all that bad a way to live

Well I’m in this desert town and it’s hot as hell
But no one’s buyin’ what I got to sell
I make my lame kid walk I make a dumb guy talk
I’m preachin’ up a storm both night and day
But everyone just turns and walks away

Well I can see that I’m only wasting time
So I head across the road to drink some wine
This old man comes up to me, he says I seen you on the street
You’re pretty good if I do say myself
But the guy come through last month he was somethin’ else

Instead of callin’ out for fire from above
He just gets real quiet and talks about love
And I’ll tell you somethin’ funny, he didn’t want nobody’s money
Now I’m not exactly sure what this all means
But it’s the damndest thing I swear I’ve ever seen

Well since that time every town’s the same
I can’t make a dime, I don’t know why I came
I decide I’ll go and find him and find out who’s behind him
He has everyone convinced that he’s for real
Well I figure we can work us out a deal

So he offers me a job and I say fine
He says I’ll get paid off on down the line
Well I guess I’ll string along – don’t see how too much can go wrong
As long as he pays my way I guess I’ll follow
We’re headed for Jerusalem tomorrow

Have a look at this picture.

It’s called Entry into the City and it’s by John August Swanson from California

What do you notice about the picture?

Here are a few prompts from me:

What are the soldiers doing?

  • Keeping people safe?
  • Intimidating people?
  • Watching what they are up to?

There are lots of different coloured flags -what might that signify?

The sky is very cloudy overhead. Why might that be?

Who are the nearest people to Jesus?

Time for our other Bible readings

1 Kings 1:32-40

Then King David sent for Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah. When they came in, he said to them, “Take my court officials with you; have my son Solomon ride my own mule, and escort him down to Gihon Spring, where Zadok and Nathan are to anoint him as king of Israel. Then blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ Follow him back here when he comes to sit on my throne. He will succeed me as king, because he is the one I have chosen to be the ruler of Israel and Judah.”

“It shall be done,” answered Benaiah, “and may the Lord your God confirm it! As the Lord has been with Your Majesty, may he also be with Solomon and make his reign even more prosperous than yours.”

So Zadok, Nathan, Benaiah, and the royal bodyguards put Solomon on King David’s mule and escorted him to Gihon Spring. Zadok took the container of olive oil which he had brought from the Tent of the Lord’s presence, and anointed Solomon. They blew the trumpet, and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” Then they all followed him back, shouting for joy and playing flutes, making enough noise to shake the ground.

Zechariah 9:9-10

Rejoice, rejoice, people of Zion!
    Shout for joy, you people of Jerusalem!
    Look, your king is coming to you!
He comes triumphant and victorious,
    but humble and riding on a donkey—
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

The Lord says,

“I will remove the war chariots from Israel
    and take the horses from Jerusalem;
    the bows used in battle will be destroyed.
Your king will make peace among the nations;
    he will rule from sea to sea,
    from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.”

Talk

Having forgotten entirely about Mothering Sunday last time I spoke I thought I’d better not miss Palm Sunday too!

So nothing today particularly about Stewardship.

I want us to concentrate on what Jesus was up to on Palm Sunday.

But before I move on to the main story involving an important donkey I want to take us back to the two things that happen just before that in Mark’s gospel.

First we have the story about James and John wanting to sit at Jesus right and left hands in Glory. These disciples that have been travelling with Jesus, hearing him talk about the last becoming first, seeing him give preference to the poor, the unwanted, the outcast – and then coming to Jesus wanting preferential treatment. James and John still haven’t got it have they? They just don’t see it.

And then we have the story of blind Bartimaeus having his sight restored by Jesus. Bartimaeus regained his sight and then followed Jesus on his way.

Now I think that these two stories are here in Mark’s narrative for a reason.

Mark is saying to us

  • Even this close to the end of Jesus’ ministry the disciples just can’t see what Jesus is all about;
  • But Jesus can make people see. Literally and figuratively.

So what was Jesus up to on Palm Sunday?

Well to my mind he’s decided that if he’s going to get his message understood  – if he’s going to get people to see what he’s about and what he’s prepared to do, if he’s going to get the disciples to finally grasp his message, he’s going to have to do something dramatic.

So he’s going to Jerusalem. That’s provocative enough for a man who’s been going around upsetting the authorities for 3 years. He’s let it be known he’s no time for the Pharisees, but if he had wanted to keep things low key he could have stayed in Galilee, he could have gone to the capital city under cover of darkness, or walked in quietly with his small band of trusted followers around him. In all the busyness of Passover time maybe no-one would have noticed.

But that’s not what he wants. Because he needs to bring everything to a head. He needs everyone to see what he’s about. So he orchestrates an event.

Now when I used to hear the story of Jesus sending his disciples off to find this donkey, or colt, the underlying message was that this was somehow another example of a miracle – how did Jesus know where the donkey was going to be, how did he know what the people would say, how did he expect the words The Master needs it to elicit the response – Oh that’s alright then – just take this very valuable animal even though I’ve no idea who on earth you are – how could all those things happen unless it was a miracle. Well a miracle is one explanation – but if I’m right, if Jesus was orchestrating an event, a spectacle, would it not be easier just to assume he’s planned it in advance?

His strategy was to make his entry into the city something that would make the people sit up and take notice. And it had to involve a donkey because of the passages we heard earlier. There seems no doubt to me that Jesus was deliberately evoking that story about David’s successor Solomon and the verse from Zechariah

Rejoice, rejoice, people of Zion!
    Shout for joy, you people of Jerusalem!
    Look, your king is coming to you!
He comes triumphant and victorious,
    but humble and riding on a donkey—
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

(Matthew of course, in his version, expressly points this out as a fulfilment of prophecy and on this occasion I have no doubt that he’s right – that’s exactly what Jesus intended.)

Even if not everyone in the city would have realised – the religious authorities would get the reference. So the donkey becomes very important in the events of Palm Sunday. It’s key to the message. Jesus needed there to be a donkey. Is it too difficult to imagine that he’d have made full sure there’d be one when and where he needed it?

But planned event management or miracle – as ever you can make up your own minds – in on a donkey he goes.

And this provocative action works – he’s noticed alright. The people are out in droves to welcome him. He’s making an entrance. The crowd recognise God’s hand in what’s happening – they greet Jesus as David’s heir and successor. This is what they’ve been waiting for all these many years.

What would the impact of this have been? Well not only would it inflame the religious authorities but the civic powers would be alarmed too. They might not have given much notice to an itinerant preacher until now – but who’s the troublemaker stirring up the natives to unrest in the city at the busiest time of the year? We can’t be having that. Governments are never keen on public unrest and protests.

So everything is in place. The religious authorities and the Romans are certainly aware of this Jesus from the sticks.

What more can Jesus do to raise his profile in the city?

Well his message is still a religious message primarily and to be noticed even more where would he go next? The Temple is the only place to be to confront the religious leaders and that’s where he goes next. But as Mark records, it’s late, presumably the crowds Jesus needs to make his point aren’t there, and so after all that effort planning the entrance into the city he quietly leaves again.

He’d be back in the Temple tomorrow.

And then sparks would fly.

I can’t read this passage and come to any other conclusion that it represents Jesus massively raising the stakes. He sees his ministry reaching a climax over those next few days in Jerusalem. How right he is!

The die is cast. The road ahead will not be strewn with palm leaves. There will be one last moment of doubt in Gethsemane – but we all know how things are to end on the following Friday.

And how on the Sunday the world will be changed forever.

Our final hymn is You are the King of Glory.

Verse

You are the King of Glory 

You are the Prince of Peace 

You are the Lord of heaven and earth 

You’re the Son of righteousness 

Angels bow down before You 

Worship and adore for 

You have the words of eternal life 

You are Jesus Christ the Lord 

Chorus

Hosanna to the Son of David 

Hosanna to the King of Kings 

Glory in the highest heaven 

for Jesus the Messiah reigns

Repeat

Closing prayer

And now we lay down the palm branches.

And with them we lay down our belief

that there is another way for you to be God.

As the last echo of the final alleluia fades,

so does our hope that this journey can end

in any other way.

The week stretches ahead

glory-less

and pain-full

Whether we walk with all faith or none

we look towards the cross,

knowing it is both the most human

and most divine

of all journeys

travel the road with courage,

with love,

and with the uneasy peace that is the gift of faith

into this holiest of weeks.

Amen.

Finally we will close by saying the grace:

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

and the love of God

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all

evermore.

Amen

Quiz answers

  1. Jerusalem artichoke
  2. Mount Olympus
  3. Olive Oyl
  4. Village People
  5. The Master
  6. Colt 45
  7. Cloaks
  8. Palmistry
  9. Hosanna
  10. Temple

Did you manage to work out the link?

Each answer contains an important word from the Palm Sunday story.

If anyone has any questions or comments about the above, or would like to talk to me about it don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Mark Taylor

07954 172823

newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com

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