PALM SUNDAY, YEAR A
9th April 2017
Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66.
The triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on the Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of the Holy Week. Today’s celebration enables us the opportunity to reflect on the identity of the crowd that followed Jesus Christ. The very multitude that spread their clothes and palm branches on the ground as Jesus Christ passed along towards the entrance of the great Jerusalem city, is indeed amazing. But the reaction of the same multitude few days later will support the nailing of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.
At the time Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem, it had becomes obvious that he is at least a prophet sent by God. And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.’ The crowd were sure of what they were doing. His fame as a miracle worker and a great preacher has spread through the Jewish territory. They were not in doubt! They were very confident in their shouting; ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’
Thus it was indeed shocking that when some negative stories of blasphemy and sedition were levelled against him, the mood of the crowd changed at once. A man who preaches love for enemies, including the Romans, cannot be from God. A man who makes himself king of the Jews without the support of Rome, is not recognized. Jesus Christ’s reputation faded as quickly as possible. Such that the same crowd shouted back at him, crucify him! The Jewish religious leaders were able to convince the people of His guilt in all the allegations. The Jews believed their leaders.
The Lamb of God has become the lamb of sacrifice! He is no longer Jesus Christ, the Blessed one who comes. Rather he is simple Jesus, the Nazarene. The unanimity of the crowd against Jesus Christ is not new in the order of the world. It was a system of justice that works in order to restore peace. A crowd united against one, cannot be wrong. The death or expulsion of the victim will unite the people, but for a while! Jesus Christ, the prince of peace is now, according to the Jewish leaders, the reason for the turmoil in the city. His death will restore that peace. United against Jesus Christ, the chanting ‘crucify him, crucify him’ began. All the miracles and the words of his sermon were not enough to justify his innocence before the angry crowd, who heaped on him the sins of the whole nation.
His closest friends, whom he called his apostles, were not able to overcome the crowd. Swallowed up in fear, they fled for their lives. All they had seen and heard were not enough to muster in them the courage to defend their master. The courage of their master, Jesus Christ, made little or no impression in them. For us to believe that we will stand up to the crowd in defense of the master, is a presumption. It is a presumption based on the simple fact that we do not know like the sons of Zebedee what we are asking. The contagion at work in the passion of Jesus Christ does not spare anyone, for the refusal to be scandalized means death.
The lesson for us on this day is to reassess our priorities in the Sequela Christi. The reason why we follow Jesus Christ must enable in us the courage to stand for the innocent at all costs. It was to save the innocent victims of the violent scapegoating that he entered triumphant into Jerusalem today.
Anthony Ekpunobi, CM.