Scripture: John 12:9–19
Key verse: (13) 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!”
Reflection: Miracles, parades, and plots. So begins the final week of Jesus’ life.
Jesus’ renown had preceded him to Jerusalem. When he raised Lazarus from the dead, his favorability ratings went sky-high in the public polls. A great crowd of people heard that he was coming to Jerusalem and lined the path to greet him. Today you can walk from the top of the Mount of Olives, down a paved path, to the garden of Gethsemane, and across the road to where the Golden Gate led to the Temple, retracing that journey of Jesus.
As I’ve walked down that path several times, I have always wondered what the great crowds were thinking about this peasant rabbi as he entered Jerusalem that day. Their actions tell us several things: waving palm branches was something you would do to welcome a victorious leader who brought peace to the land. Calling Jesus the King of Israel was a proclamation in direct confrontation with the existing Roman rulers of that land. Jesus’ entrance offered great hope to the people, but threatened the authorities.
It was such a spectacle that the same priests who had been strategizing how to kill Lazarus — to get rid of the evidence that was stirring up crowds in favor of Jesus — began to fear Jesus himself and what he represented to the people.
The fact that Jesus rode in on a donkey — the way the prophets predicted the Messiah would come — encouraged the crowd and terrified the religious leaders who knew if they didn’t control this movement, then Rome would. And that would not be good for anyone.
But, that day, the popularity of the crowds protected Jesus. The religious leaders realized they couldn’t do anything as long as the crowds were with Jesus. Popularity has its value.
The real test would come later in the week when there were no crowds around Jesus and even his disciples left him to his fate. The Roman authorities, pressured by the religious leaders, got rid of Jesus. Or so they thought.
It is easy to follow Jesus when there is lots of public support and we get swept up in the fervor of adulation. It is quite another to follow Jesus when it might get you killed.
Prayer: I wave my palm branch, Jesus, hoping that you will make my life better. I’ll wave it until it takes too long, or gets too crowded, or too hot, or too thirsty. Then, when I turn and walk away, remind me of the selfless path you continued to walk and what it cost you to ride a donkey. In the name of the King who gave up his life for us, we pray. Amen.
Author: Von Clemans
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].