14 April 2018



Reflection Introduction

How well do you all know your Highway Code?

Or your road signs at least?

I’ve got 6 here for you to have a guess at.

These signs all tell us what to expect on the road.

  1. Men at work – or roadworks ahead.
  2. Level crossing without barrier or gate ahead.
  3. Falling or fallen rocks.
  4. Traffic lights/signals.
  5. Pedestrians in road ahead.
  6. Wild horses or ponies.

I don’t think the Jerusalem Highways Department had time to rush out some special signs that first Palm Sunday but if they had they may have looked something like this one.

This shows the silhouette of a man riding a donkey – which is what was in front of the people’s eyes as Jesus rode into Jerusalem – but is that what the people saw?

Because sometimes we can see what we want or expect to see and miss what’s really right in front of us.  

That may sound like a bit of a riddle but hopefully it will become clearer as we reflect on it in more detail later.



Psalm 118

A Song of Victory

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
   his steadfast love endures for ever! 

2 Let Israel say,
   ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’ 

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
   that I may enter through them
   and give thanks to the Lord. 

20 This is the gate of the Lord;
   the righteous shall enter through it. 

21 I thank you that you have answered me
   and have become my salvation. 
22 The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the chief cornerstone. 
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
   it is marvellous in our eyes. 
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it. 
25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
   O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! 

26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
   We bless you from the house of the Lord. 
27 The Lord is God,
   and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
   up to the horns of the altar. 

28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
   you are my God, I will extol you. 

29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
   for his steadfast love endures for ever.

Luke 19:28-40

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

29 When he had come near Bethpage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’34They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying,
‘Blessed is the king
   who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
   and glory in the highest heaven!’ 
39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ 40He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’


Palm Sunday Reflection

36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying,
‘Blessed is the king
   who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
   and glory in the highest heaven!’ 

We know the picture – Jesus astride the donkey – with his disciples and followers in front and behind – cheering and praising God joyfully – making his way into Jerusalem.

Sometimes – as I reflect on passages like this one – I imagine being able to press a pause button and somehow stepping inside the picture – just to be one of the ordinary people – who were part of this particular bit of Jesus’ story – who were part of the crowd – on this occasion – that lined the street.

Some of these people I’m sure would have heard of Jesus before – possibly even been aware of the recent miracle He’d performed when he raised Lazarus – who lived relatively locally – from the dead. Some may have been vaguely aware of Jesus – having heard something from a friend of a friend who’d heard news in the past of Jesus and his followers.

Some would have been oblivious to all of this until they became aware of the noise and the people gathering in the street (that would probably be me) – because there’s nothing quite like a crowd to draw a crowd.

And what would the talk have been like in that crowd – how much of the truth of what was happening would you be able to pick up – if any.

Crowds are interesting things – which have sort of self-generating or self-fulfilling lives of their own – most often directed by those crowd members with the loudest voices.

I’ve been part of football crowds where the atmosphere is very negative and there’s actually very little noise – which are suddenly transformed into vibrant, joyous throngs of humanity by the wonder of a goal – and once the crowd has taken this turn – with the right voices driving it on – it becomes a force that is almost impossible to shift from its course.

And so on the streets of Jerusalem there would be those who knew of Jesus – those who knew a little of Jesus and those who didn’t really know of Jesus but were swept up in the momentum of the crowd.


And what a joyful noise they made –

As we hear in the other Gospels the crowd called out:

“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]

“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”

Cheering the coming of their King – cheering that their salvation was at hand.

But as I touched on earlier – in today’s introduction – also possibly allowing the occasion and the noise and excitement of the crowd to override – to a certain extent – what they were seeing with their eyes.

Because Jesus had carefully chosen to ride into the city – because that was a statement – King’s don’t walk.

But He had also carefully chosen his choice of mount – the donkey – fulfilling the prophecy from Zechariah – coming as a King of peace.

But the crowd – despite what their eyes were telling them – and despite what some of them might have remembered about teachings on Zechariah – saw what they wanted to seea mighty liberating King.

I wonder if there were many – or any – in the crowd that day who got the true message that Jesus was sending out – that this was something different.

But because of the nature – because of the fervour of the crowd – their voice could not be heard – or maybe because of the fervour of the crowd they didn’t want their voice to be heard.

Because it’s uncomfortable to stick out in a crowd – if you’re not with the will of the crowd – if your position is different to the rest of the crowd.

I remember – a few years ago now – going to St James’ Park, Newcastle with a friend to watch Newcastle United (my team) play Aston Villa.

My friend – Lenny – wasn’t actually a Newcastle supporter but particularly liked one of the Newcastle players at that time – and his family had got him tickets for this game. But the only way they could get him tickets – because all the Newcastle ones were sold out – was to get tickets in the Aston Villa section of the ground!

Thankfully – somehow – we were in the very front row of the Aston Villa fans – but behind us there were 75 rows of them – a few thousand anyway.

The match kicked off and within a very short space of time Aston Vila scored – but almost immediately Newcastle came straight back down to our end and equalised – and without even thinking I was on my feet!

And when the euphoria had washed through me I glanced down at Lenny – who had remained seated – who was looking up at me – shaking his head and glancing up behind us – it’s uncomfortable to stick out in a crowd.

And if we fast forward from Palm Sunday to the crowd at Jesus’ trial – we find a very different crowd to the one that greeted him on his arrival in Jerusalem – it would almost certainly have had a different composition – but quite possibly with a few of those who had been shouting Hosanna, Hosanna  few days before – but they’re voices were not heard.

It’s uncomfortable enough sticking out from the crowd when there are a few thousand – thankfully mostly benign – Aston Villa supporters behind you but how much more uncomfortable – or dangerous even – if you tried to make your voice heard in that angry and aggressive crowd.

It’s not always easy to find your voice even when you know you should!

But back to Palm Sunday – but first back to Zechariah 9.

Zechariah 9:10 (GNT)

10 The Lord says,

“I will remove the war chariots from Israel
    and take the horses from Jerusalem;
    the bows used in battle will be destroyed.
Your king will make peace among the nations;
    he will rule from sea to sea,
    from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.”

The crowd – possibly understandably – seemed happy to grab onto elements of Verse 9 from Zechariah:

“Look, your king is coming to you!
He comes triumphant and victorious,”

But – possibly because it didn’t serve their personal narrative – or the narrative of the crowd – gloss over – or ignore – what followed in Verse 10.

The majority of the people lining the streets wanted an earthly king who would overthrow the Romans and re-establish Israel to the former glory it had enjoyed in the days of David and Solomon. These were the people who were making the noise and creating the uproar; they were welcoming the change they thought Jesus’ arrival was about to create.

But Jesus is a different kind of king – a king who very carefully chose His means of transport.  The horse stood for war and that’s what the people wanted. The crowd yearned for a leader who would set them free from the occupation and oppression of Rome.

In their excitement, the crowd miss that Jesus does things very differently.

He’s on a donkey. 

Certainly kings rode donkeys in the ancient world, but they were seen as peaceful animals. Not like a horse – bred for war – a donkey is raised for acts of service – it was a symbol of meekness – of peace.

Jesus knew precisely who He was – and what sort of king He was.

The crowd’s desire may have been for a king to ride in to meet the very real – but narrow – need they felt they had – freeing them from the oppression of the Romans.

But Jesus rode in – not as some sort of ‘single-item-solving-superhero’ – but as someone who would liberate them and transform their daily lives in a way that was beyond their comprehension.

The crowd may have been confused – but Jesus knew precisely who He was.

And not only did He know precisely who He was when He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday – right now He knows who He is when He enters the Jerusalem of our individual lives.

The crowds in Jerusalem were missing the bigger picture of Jesus’ kingship in their individual lives – because their particular circumstances – narrowed their vision – and deflected them from who Jesus really was.


In reflecting on this I’ve had to acknowledge that there are times – probably too many times – when I behave just like the crowd in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

I just want Jesus to ride into my life on a big white horse – with a flashing sword – and deliver me – immediately – from whatever difficult situation I find myself in.

And I forget – because just like the crowd in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday – I allow my circumstances to distract me – and narrow my focus of attention. I forget – that because of the path that Jesus walked from Palm Sunday on through Easter – and the sacrifice He made – and the victory He won – that He walks beside me – every day.

When I thirst He doesn’t appear with just a cup of water – He reminds me that there is an eternal and everlasting stream of living water right at my feet.

He walks beside me through every day – He is there with me on the sunny hill tops and He is there in the deepest – darkest – valley. And when I find myself – apparently lost and alone – in that place of darkness – and I stop – because I think I can’t go on – He stops beside me – He holds out His hand – and in His light we walk forward together.

He is not a king for just one battle – or just one day.

He walks beside us through each and every day.

He is our eternal and everlasting King.