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Weekly Bible Study, Sermons, Prayers and Worship Resources

Palm Sunday Year C, Colour = Red


Palm SundayThe Season of Lent

Introduction

If we take the flattery of others too seriously we are likely to expose ourselves to disappointment. Pop stars and movie stars find this frequently. The crowds that rush out to buy their records or go to their films, can all too quickly suddenly loose interest. More worrying, the media can turn nasty and overnight reputations are ruined and careers in tatters.

Jesus knew this. The crowds who lined the road to cheer him into Jerusalem would soon change and call for his blood. The disciples themselves were fickle and ran away when the going got tough. So this week we are asked what kind of Christians we are. Are we 'fair weather' friends of Jesus, or are we prepared to follow him through the difficult times as well?

Are we up to being disciples of Jesus, or are we just following Jesus to see if we can get something out of it? Are we happy to hang around just whilst the going is easy, or are we prepared to stick with Jesus when we realise just how much peace really costs? That is the challenge of Palm Sunday.

Jesus choose a special animal for his ride into Jerusalem on that day which we remember this Palm Sunday. Like the tomb into which he would be buried, it had never been used before. Jesus knew the prophecy of Zechariah Chapter 9:9

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

The inescapable conclusion is that Jesus knew he was fulfilling the expectation which the Jewish people had of a Messiah. That is why people sang out Psalm 118, the psalm of praise which pilgrims always sang on the way to Jerusalem. It was a song of victory, a hymn of praise to a God who defeated all of his foes and established his kingdom. Jesus knows he is the fulfilment of God's promises, for a king who would bring peace to earth from heaven. Jesus is the salvation of God, but he would soon prove to be a disappointment to the crowd. The crowd who cheered him into Jerusalem would soon cheer instead for Barabbas, when they realised that salvation was about a cross, not overthrowing the Romans. Are you cheering?

 

Lent logo, sacrifice,prayer, devotion

Opening Verse of Scripture    Matthew 21:9

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!
 

Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray

Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards the human race sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

First Bible Reading   Isaiah Chapter 50:4-9a

The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me?

Second Reading Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let Israel say: "His love endures forever." Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Hosanna to the King of Kings

Gospel ReadingLuke Chapter 19:28-40

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it.'" Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They replied, "The Lord needs it." They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

Post Communion Prayer

 Lord Jesus Christ, you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant, and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation: give us the mind to follow you and to proclaim you as Lord and King, to the glory of God the Father.


Commentary

picture of palm for Palm SundayLuke surrounds the wonderful pageant of Jesus’ mounted descent from the Mount of Olives and ascent to Jerusalem with pain. It is hard to trivialise the scene with shallow triumphalism. The context invites us to the horror of Jerusalem and of all other habitations where human blood has been shed. The message is not the cheap comfort of blame, but the mourning for lost peace. The crowd, for Luke, is no longer a populist throng, but disciples who are beginning to understand why this baby was born and why he must die. They cry out - and should they be silenced the stones around would cry out in their stead.

The triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem marked the real beginning of the way of the cross for him. Although his life had been edging that way for some time, Palm Sunday was the beginning of the final count-down to the events of Easter. His manner of entry was carefully chosen. He could have simply walked into Jerusalem, in the usual way, with all the other travellers. Perhaps He was making a statement about being one of the people, ordinary, yet very different. Different enough to make a calculated entry into the city, an entry designed to announce his arrival to the world. This mode of entry chosen by Jesus perhaps foreshadowed his act at the Last Supper, of washing the disciples' feet, the act which showed the servant nature of this particular leader. It demonstrated the great gospel paradox that strength is made perfect in weakness.

By way of His entry into Jerusalem, Jesus lays down a challenge to the authorities, and the authorities have to respond. The people who lined the streets of Jerusalem to cheer for Jesus on Sunday were silent by Friday. They expected a triumphant king but found instead a powerless prisoner. The exuberance and celebration of the entry is followed by the pain of Jesus’ unjust trail, the cries for crucifixion and His death on the cross. The authorities had acted. A Palm to Passion tragedy? Or would God intervene to bring about a happy ending?

Sometimes we can find ourselves in similar situations to the palm crowd, waving our flags and saying we want what is best for society, but too often looking for the quick fix and the simplistic answers or changing our tune in the face of adversity. Do we make well intentioned statements, but fail to accept our own responsibility to bring about change? Like Pilate, do we wash our hands of the responsibility of our actions, perhaps knowing what is right, hearing the call of God and needing to take the risk toward our full calling but giving in to our insecurities and our need to be liked?

And indeed it would be a tragedy if that was the ending of the story. But God did intervene to bring about a glorious ending, the resurrection and ascension. An ending that was the beginning of new life. An ending that saw Lordship and Kingship in servant hood, His strength made perfect in weakness, and an ending that saw our weakness made perfect in His strength. An ending that revealed why the baby was born and why He had to die for each one of us. An ending which revealed why we worship the Servant King. It’s not a tragedy. For God hears our cries of ‘Hosanna’ (Save us!) yet forgives our metaphorical shouts of ‘crucify’ each time we turn away from Him and go our own way. We cry Hosanna today, what are the words on our lips when the Good Friday’s come in our lives?  Sam Cappleman

 

Meditation

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem looks like a real celebration. The people who know - the disciples, not the crowds, as in the other gospels - praise God for the miracles they have seen. They have seen the deeds of liberation which Jesus announced in his home synagogue. Their acclamation includes, as in the other gospels, the allusion to our reading from the Psalms this morning, Ps 118 v 26, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’. But Luke adds: ‘the king’. We are not to forget the kings! Previous kings, especially Archelaus had not brought peace. Here is the real king who would bring real peace. ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest’ (Lk 19 v 38). We are transported back to the time of Jesus’ birth and the hillside where the shepherds heard the cry, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among people of his favour’ (Lk 2 v 14). The kings of the earth had brought no peace. The people of Jerusalem refused the way of peace. Jesus offered the way to peace. Peace hailed as heavenly is also peace made for earth. By recalling this scene Luke is recovering for us the cries for liberation among God’s favoured people, Israel, and all who belong to her.

Hymns

  1. All glory laud and honour 9

  2. We cry Hosanna Lord 725

  3. Make way, make way 457

  4. Crown Him with many crowns 109

  5. Ride on, ride on in majesty 580
    (all from Mission Praise)

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

"Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian. If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."

As on this day we keep the special memory of our redeemer’s entrance into the city, so grant, O Lord, that now and ever he may triumph in our hearts. Let the king of grace and glory enter in, and let us lay ourselves and all we are in full joyful homage before him, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Handley C.G.Moule 1841-1920

Have mercy on me O God, I was angry that I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet.
Chinese Buddhist Prayer

I thank you Lord for knowing me better than I know myself, and for letting me know myself better than others know me. Make me, I ask you them better than they suppose, and forgive me for what they do not know, Abu Bakr

Lord of Lords, grant is the good whether we pray for it or not, but evil keep from us, even though we pray for it.
Plato 27-348BC

God our Father, we come today to worship you and confess that devotion to you is often far from our minds. This morning may we refocus our attention upon our love for you and how we show that love. Help us Lord to be more willing to pour out our lives as fragrant offerings of love. We lay our lives before you and ask that we might know that love which does not count the cost.

Lord God, as we wait upon you now, as we listen for your voice in the silence of hearts and as we offer our prayers to you we think of those people in our lives who have loved us with a generous love we think of those who like Mary have not counted the cost of what they have given us; of those who given all of themselves to us as Christ gave himself for the world; and we thank you for them - and ask you to bless them and for you to make us like them.

As we go into this week, O God, help us to have a focus, a purpose that is beyond that of just getting by; beyond that of just trying to make it through another week; show us we pray what you would have us do; reveal to us our own personal and unique ministry—and help us to do it.

Bless O God those in our midst and those around the world whom we name in our hearts before you at this time; we especially ask for those who are poor in the basic needs of daily living; and for those who are poor in love; hear too the prayers we ask for those who need healing or hope in their lives, those who need justice, and those who require mercy.

 

Additional Resources

Colour a picture of Jesus on a colt

Open colouring sheet in Adobe

picture of Jesus on donkey

Commentary

By The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman

It's all over bar the shouting...

It seemed like good news. There was a big parade with lots of pomp and circumstance, everybody turned out, the disciples were very impressed, and the Pharisees and the Sadducees realised that they had underestimated this simple Galilean teacher. Riding this crest of public approval Jesus went to the temple, the very centre of the Jewish faith, and began to teach and preach. From Sunday to Thursday Jesus was unstoppable. His enemies tried to trick him several times -- but to no avail; each time He turned the tables on them and exposed their treachery. No one even seriously complained when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and let the sacrificial birds loose. And of course, in this same period Jesus established the greatest new commandment, the one that says: "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" and He began a new ceremony with bread and wine which would later on, become the sacrament of Holy Communion.

But on the Thursday it all changed. He was betrayed and arrested, and on Friday He was hung him on a cross and killed. Today the palms - tomorrow the passion.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem it was all over bar the shouting. Events had to take their course. Death would be defeated and our relationship with God would be restored. In choosing to ride into Jerusalem Jesus was setting in motion a train of events that could not be stopped. But first there would be lots of shouting. First the 'Hosannas'. Then the shouts of 'Crucify Him'. When He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey events had turned full circle from when he entered Bethlehem on a donkey in Mary's womb. The adoration and worship the three kings offered Him was validated as He rode into Jerusalem as Judge, Prophet, Priest and King. The significance of the myrrh they had brought would finally be understood.

It was all over bar the shouting. Sin and death would be defeated and the fickleness of the world and its people would be exposed. In Jewish tradition the name Jerusalem means 'foundation of peace'. For several days the peace of the city would be shattered as events took their course. Even if the people were silent, the stones which made up the foundations of peace would cry our in worship and praise to the Son of God.

It was going to be a noisy time, with echo's of the cries of Hosanna and Crucify continuing to sound through the centuries. And yet, through it all, the peace and serenity of Jesus shines through. His obedience to the Father and to the task to which he had been called lead us beyond the shouting - to the cold, lonely silence which followed the crucifixion. Many who shouted Hosanna ('Save us we pray') would be the same people who would yell murderous cries a few days later. And how many would realise they were voicing a self fulfilling prophecy. God was in control, not the crowds or the authorities. The only way to salvation could be through the cross.

Nearly everyone has known the taste of Palm Sunday, the sweetness of success and popularity, and nearly all of us have tasted the bitterness of Good Friday, of failure and rejection. What saves us from an endless round of ups and downs, what frees us from the tyranny of events over which we have no control, is our commitment to press forward in obedience to God and trust in God's love to bring about Easter morning. Knowing that the meaning of life is to be found in the knowledge and love of God and obedience to Him, whatever that takes - and in obedience sharing that knowledge and love with those who accompany us on the way. Sam Cappleman

By The Reverend Dr Joan Crossley

Our age is obsessed by celebrity. You can see evidence of this obsession on the television, in magazines and newspapers – all are full of the habits, tastes and opinions of so called “stars”. These stars are not famous for moral worth, practical achievements or humanitarian efforts. Most of them are just famous for being famous. And yet this dubious achievement is what many people aspire to! 

But as many “stars” have found, being famous is a poisoned chalice. Celebrity draws unwanted attention and makes them the focus of envy, dislike and even violence. It seems almost much as people admire “stars” they enjoy seeing them being exposed as fallible and flawed, just like everyone else. 

So it was with Jesus. Those who had watched Him heal the sick and transform the lives of the people who understood His teachings, loved and revered Jesus. On Palm Sunday we see Jesus at the height of His popularity with the crowds in Jerusalem. He could have done anything with them: commanded them to storm the Temple or rebel against the Romans. But because Jesus was the Prince of Peace and wanted to bring about spiritual change, He did not set off a popular revolt. 

The reason many “stars” are so easily exposed as liars, fools or hugely flawed is because they wear one face in public, yet are very different in reality. Jesus was a perfectly integrated person, the same to everyone He encountered, the same in public or in private. But His honesty and the originality of His teachings brought Him into direct conflict with the powerful in Jerusalem. Even His former friend Judas was filled with envy and malice at Jesus’ ability to attract love. Jesus did not care whether He was loved by the mob. He did not court anyone’s approval, but lived and taught according to His Father’s will. 

WE must pray for the courage and the honesty to live out Christ’s Gospel, without being influenced by the approval or disapproval of anyone except God.

 

Prayers for Sunday

Holy Father, you have shown us that the brave bearing of the cross is the beginning of wearing your crown: help us by your grace to bear patiently our pains and disappointments, as your beloved Son bore His; and to offer them to you as the pure gift of our faithfulness to our crucified Lord. Amen

As on this day we keep the special memory of our Redeemer's entry into the city, so grant O Lord than now and ever, He may triumph in our hearts. Let the King of Glory enter in, and let us lay ourselves and all we are in full and joyful homage before Him, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen Bishop Moule, 1841-1920

Father God, During Lent we have been preparing for the celebration of our Lord's Paschal mystery. On this day Jesus Christ entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph. The people welcomed Him with palms and shouts of praise, but the path before Him led to self-giving, suffering and death. Today we greet Him as our king, although we know His crown is thorns and His throne a cross. We follow Him this week from the glory of the palms to the glory of the resurrection by the dark road of suffering and death. Unite us with Him in His suffering on the cross; may we share His resurrection and new life. Amen

Christ crucified draw you to himself, to find in him a sure ground for faith, a firm support for hope, and the assurance of sins forgiven; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

As we journey this week with Christ and celebrate the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection, let us earnestly pray to God for those following the way of the cross and for all peoples everywhere. Blessed are you, Lord our God, who sent your Son among us to bear the pain and grief of humankind. Receive the prayers we offer this day for all those in need in every place and as we near the holy mountain grant us strength on our journey. Glory to you for ever. Amen

Holy Father, you have shown us that the brave bearing the cross is he beginning of wearing your crown: help us by your grace to bear patiently our pains and disappointments, as your beloved Son bore His; and to offer them to you as the pure gift of our faithfulness to our crucified Lord. Amen

Christ, Saviour of all life, you come to us always. Welcoming you in the peace of our nights, in the silence of our days, in the beauty of creation, in the hours of combat within, welcoming you is knowing that you will be with us in every situation, always. Amen

Christ crucified draw you to himself, to find in him a sure ground for faith, a firm support for hope, and the assurance of sins forgiven; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always. Amen

Christ crucified draw you to himself, to find in him a sure ground for faith, a firm support for hope, and the assurance of sins forgiven; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those things which last for ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

O God our dance, in whom we live and move and have our being: so direct our strength and inspire our weakness that we may enter with power into the movement of you whole creation, through our partner Jesus Christ. Amen

O God, you are my rock, my rescue, and my refuge, I leave it all quietly to you. Amen. George Appleton (1902-93)

Lord may I prefer the truth and right by which I might seem to lose, to the falsehood and wrong by which I might seem to gain. Amen. Maimonides (1135-1204) Spain.

Hymns for Sunday

 

  1. All glory laud and honour
  2. Make Way, Make Way
  3. Man of Sorrows! What a name
  4. We cry Hosanna Lord
  5. Ride on, ride on in Majesty
  6. When I survey the wondrous cross;

Commentary

The reading from Isaiah is taken from a section called the third servant song where Israel in exile is rejecting the prophet’s message. The people are “weary” of Isaiah’s constant preaching and droning on. But he is undeterred, God has given him the word and he will deliver it, even at the cost of personal suffering. In the same way, Jesus’ passion was the outcome of His obedient delivery of the message of the kingdom, despite His people’s rejection. The passion story in the gospel reading starts with a big parade, with lots of pomp and circumstance, everybody has turned out for the occasion. The disciples were very impressed, and even the Pharisees and the Sadducees realised that they had underestimated this simple Galilean teacher. Seemingly riding on this crest of public approval Jesus went to the temple, the very centre of the Jewish faith, and began to teach and preach. From Sunday to Thursday Jesus was unstoppable. His enemies tried to trick him several times -- but to no avail; each time He turned the tables on them and exposed their treachery. But on the Thursday it all changed. He was betrayed and arrested, and on Friday He was hung him on a cross and killed.

Today the palms - tomorrow the passion.

We all know the taste of Palm Sunday, the sweetness of success and popularity, and we all know too the bitterness of Good Friday, of suffering, failure and rejection. What saves us from an endless round of ups and downs, from events over which we have no control, is our commitment to press forward in obedience to God and trust in God's love which ultimately brings about our Easter mornings. Knowing that the meaning of life is to be found in the knowledge and love of God and obedience to Him, whatever that takes. In our Lent course this year we have been looking at prophecy and how God speaks to His people through the obedience, words and actions of His faithful people. Jesus Himself was the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecy which focused on the coming Messiah. Among the gospel writers Matthew alone quotes the passage from Zechariah where we read, ‘See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey…’ When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, many did not recognise Him as the Messiah they longed for. The crowds asked who it was that had such an impact as He rode into the city. What they were witnessing was not some war lord riding into battle to smash the opposition and take it captive but a radically subverted model of power, exercised in gentleness and compassion which would challenge the systems and structures of the political and religious world, and continue to do so throughout history. They were confused. Jesus proclaimed peace, not war; set people free rather than taking them captive; and restored rather than plundered. It’s this subversive, radical power that Christ unleashes on the world through the events of the coming week, and continues through the imperfect, but forgiven and redeemed band of people called the Church.

In Matthew the people call Jesus ‘the prophet from Nazareth’, which He was, but he was not merely one of the long line of Old Testament prophets. Neither was He just preaching social reform, as prophets such as Amos had done to Israel. Jesus was the last emissary from God, bringing with him God’s final and decisive word to his people. The word with Matthew uses to describe the turmoil that was happening as Jesus rode into Jerusalem is the word that is used for an earthquake. It is used again at the time of Jesus’ death and at His resurrection. All three events pivotal moments if history. The Bishop of St Albans reminded us that prophets today are those people who speak in the context of their society, speak out the truth and seek after peace. As we do, so we reveal more of God’s decisive word, His Son Jesus, to all people and the cosmic impact of Easter week is felt once more.  Sam Cappleman

 

Commentary

The Roman historian Josephus, tells us that each year over 1 million people went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover at the time of Christ. That's a lot of people - especially when you think that the population of Jerusalem today is only about 650,000 and in Jesus' time it would be more like 65,000. The place would be heaving, and into all this excitement and fervour Jesus rides slowly into Jerusalem on a donkey. He's just one in a million Jews heading into the city. Yet out of this ordinary act for a Jew, extraordinary things were about to happen, because Jesus was no ordinary Jew. The crowds shout Hosanna 'Save (us)', and waved the fronds of palms, the sign of victory, the sign very familiar to the Roman army. And suddenly Jesus is more than just one in a million. As he rides slowly into Jerusalem He's surrounded by large crowds in front and behind Him, and although He is peacefully riding a placid donkey, it’s like an earthquake hits the town. Jerusalem is literally to be shaken to its foundations. There's going to be a spiritual showdown, a confrontation, and all of the physical universe will be shaken to the core. Jesus' Galilean ministry is at an end, and shortly the journey to Jerusalem will be complete. The Messiah, the servant King of Isaiah, rides into town. Jesus, a man of supreme holiness, the perfect Israelite, the one who has come to set all people free has come to fulfil His calling. Sometimes we feel that we're just one person in a million others. We're just an ordinary person living an ordinary life, how can we possibly change the world, or even our small piece of it, or make a difference with our lives? With God, there are no ordinary people, there is no ordinary life, because Jesus was no ordinary Jew and we are no ordinary people. We may feel like we have no influence on the world around us but that’s not the case. As we have compassion on those around us, as we speak our ordinary words, as we challenge the things which are not in line with God's will, just as when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, extraordinary things will happen. Now it may be that what we say and what we do won't be as earth shattering as the events of Holy Week were. But it could well be that in doing the ordinary, like taking a bus into town or a donkey into Jerusalem, we suddenly become one in a million for someone else, speaking out God's word and doing His will and shaking the world in our own way. Sam Cappleman

Commentary

The triumphant entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem before His passion, was celebrated with particular solemnity since the first centuries of Christianity. In the Byzantine Rite it is considered to this day to be one of the twelve Major Feasts of the liturgical year. It is always celebrated on the Sunday before Easter with the blessing of branches. From ancient times, palm-branches were symbols of victory and triumph. The Romans used to reward their champions of the games with palm-branches and military triumphs, were observed with palms. It seems that the Jews followed the same custom (Lev. 23:40; I Macc. 13:37) of carrying palm-branches on their festive occasions. That is what happened during the solemn entry of Jesus into the Holy City before His last Passover.

From Jerusalem this celebration of palms spread to Egypt, then to Syria and Asia Minor. By the fifth century the feast was celebrated in Constantinople, where the Emperor and his household used to take part in a solemn procession on Passion Sunday. There, besides palms, the faithful were given olive and lilac branches. During the sixth and the seventh centuries the procession took place in the morning. It was at this time that the blessing of palms and other branches was introduced. The feast then spread to the West, where it received its present name- Palm Sunday.

On Palm Sunday Jesus was finally recognised by the Jewish people as their Messiah. When He arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, they greeted Him with a triumphant welcome, a fulfilment of a prophecy (Mt. 21:4-5). When the Apostles saw the enthusiastic crowds, they brought a donkey foal for Jesus to ride on, while other people spread their coats and cloaks and threw "branches from the trees" on the road in front of Him. Others took "branches of palms" in their hands and, cheered, crying out: "Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" As Jesus was entering the city, surrounded by the excited crowds, the Scribes and the Pharisees became alarmed and decided to stop Him at any cost.

Jesus' presence sets Jerusalem in turmoil (eseisthe - the word used for earthquake), just as it was at His birth and would be at His crucifixion several days later. The event was to be 'of earth shattering significance. Jesus was not entering a foreign city, nor entering the city of 'the Jews'. He was a Jew. He was entering the city which symbolised in His faith and His scriptures, God's promise to Israel. To confront one's own faith and its traditions is painful. This is part of the drama of the event, both in Matthew's account and in the earlier forms of the story, not least in the event itself. For some, Jesus' approach to Jerusalem has become a symbol of the confrontation they must make in their own lives, including the confrontation with themselves. The issues at stake are not ultimate control or power, though it is easy to give this impression: Jesus is the rightful king, they are about obedience, fulfilling the work of God, and doing our part in His calling to us.

The true signs of servanthood have much less to do with glory, palms and crowns, which ultimately must be subverted into irony on the cross, and more to do with acts of healing, wholeness, justice and compassion. Without the crucifixion and resurrection, the entry story is ambiguous, a potential disaster, which realises itself in every generation in the name of piety and self righteousness. But a radically subverted model of power, exercised in gentleness and compassion challenges the systems of not only the first century Roman world but also their equivalents in our own world today. Its this subversive, radical power that Christ unleashes on the world through the events of the coming week, and through the imperfect, but forgiven and redeemed band of people called the Church. The Reverend Dr. Sam Cappleman

Meditations

Isaiah 40-55 was written in exile and contains four servant songs, sections that sometimes seem to interrupt the flow of the book but have a unity within themselves. The first (42 v 1-7) begins "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen ..."; in the second (49 v 1-7) the servant, abused and humiliated, is commissioned anew; in the third (our passage today) he is disciplined and strengthened by suffering; and in the fourth (52 v 17-53 v 12) even the Gentiles are in awesome contemplation before the suffering and rejected servant. In late Judaism, the servant was seen as the perfect Israelite, one of supreme holiness, a Messiah. In the gospels, Jesus identifies himself as the servant (or slave), the one who frees all people.

In the euphoria and exuberance of this morning's celebration, the church must not be seduced into losing sight of its central mission and message: obedient service. Adapted from Homelitics

There is a well known sailing term called “being prepared to trim your sails” which I understand means being willing to adapt to conditions as you encounter them. This is clearly sensible if you are trying to survive a force ten gale! But in life, if you endlessly adapt who and what you are according to the people you meet, you are in danger of becoming a fragmented being, never being your true self for long. Do you have one face for people in church and another for the people in the office? Are you a Christian on Sundays and a pagan the rest of the week?