(In a downloadable mp3 form, too.)
This was a strange procession. A guy on a donkey. (No doubt the scoffers likened him to that poor animal.) Tagging along with him were a bunch of fishermen, rural herdsmen, and even (shudder) a taxman. A crowd, mostly of just plain folks, got into it. They’d apparently heard about this Jesus of Galilee (v. 11), and had a high regard for him. Maybe this was the man who’d save them from the hands of the Roman conquerors. Maybe this was the man who’d save them from the effects of a chasm that set the keepers of the Temple system apart from the ordinary Jew. Maybe this was the man who’d save them from their own frustration and loss of hope in the God who chose them.
So they laid palm branches before him as he went in, and cried out to their (potential) hero, “Save us!”
And His first deeds took him along that course just fine, too. He goes to the Temple grounds, to the money changers and the salesmen. It was a real need within a sacrificial system to have ritually-clean animals available to those whose raw poverty or citified lifestyle let them have none of their own. But what happened is the same thing that always happens when the customer is powerless to argue: not only does the price go up, but a system is created to extract more through the exchange of currency. Jesus struck at this about as directly as he could, as part of a sort of ‘Occupy Temple’ action. His more important strike at the sacrificial system was that Jesus could deliver what the system could only promise. But no one noticed that, at least not yet.
Then, Jesus did the sort of thing He had always done: He went around the Temple area preaching and healing the sick. These people must’ve gathered there desperately in the belief that the God who lived in the Temple might heal them. Instead, the God who lived among them healed them. And children came out, continuing to call on the heroic descendant of David, “Save us! Save us!” They all had been without hope for so long.
If they only knew just how big a task it would be to save them. Or how far God would go to make it happen. The cries of praise would give way to the call for blood, and it would be shed. But not just yet. The original Palm Sunday was time to celebrate what could be.
Father, you have indeed heard the cries of your people, and answered them in an unexpected way. Help us to bear witness to what you have done. Amen.
A challenge: think for a while about what God can heal in you and in the world immediately around you. Try focusing away from your own personal behaviors, at least this time; what else is there?