The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!’ Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: ‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’
His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. The Pharisees then said to one another,
‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!’
Nobody has a clue what is happening…apart from the Pharisees.
The disciples don’t get it, as usual. It’s not until later when they look back on things that it all starts to make sense. Isn’t that the way of life? Often when we are in the middle of something we don’t realise its significance until well afterwards. It’s like watching someone tipping that first domino, knowing that a train of events has been set in motion but also knowing that you won’t really know what has happened until all the other dominoes have fallen and the pattern they have made can be seen.
Decisions we make as people, as a church, a denomination and a country. Unintended consequences. Expediency. Lack of foresight. Lazy thinking or plain self interest. We have all done it and will all do it again.
Perspective is one of the gifts of the Gospels. They are not diaries. They are accounts, written with hindsight, something I think we often forget. The writer of John is watching the dominoes fall and making sense of the pattern for us.
A prophecy fulfilled. A crowd behaving oddly. Waving palms and shouting for the King of Israel is treason, but this Jesus can raise people from the dead. They had seen the ultimate miracle for themselves, so maybe, just maybe, it’s worth the risk.
The pharisees know that their moment is not yet here. The crowd are fickle. Their time will come. But not yet.
Each time I read this story I wonder where I would stand, and who I would stand with. And wish once again that I had the gift of perspective.
God who takes the long view Help us who are right in the middle of it all To step back, To slow down, To look around And to see with your eyes The consequences of our actions For those we rarely even give a thought to.
Help us to learn from our past And the past of others. Give us eyes to see And ears to hear Your perspective. Amen
The Rev’d Stewart Cuter is the minister of St Ninian’s LEP, Stonehouse in the Synod of Scotand.