palm-sundayIf you are unaccustomed to attending church but would like to, there’s no better time to start than Palm Sunday.  And that’s this Sunday: April 5, 2009.

Imagine that you are living in Jerusalem at the time of Christ.  A large city is preparing for Passover.  You have heard of Jesus of Nazareth, and has he ever created a storm of conversation among you, your friends and your family.  People either love him or loathe him. 

Your mom says: ‘He seems like a good man. Raised Lazarus from the dead, you know.  And he has good things to say to people.’

Your dad says he’s just a troublemaker, upsetting the high priests and threatening the established order.

Your mate from work says, ‘I dunno what I think.  But I guess I’ll be out there cheering him on Sunday.  Guess he’s coming into town that day for Passover.  Maybe what people say is true — he’ll topple the Romans.  The Romans are jerks.’

Your sister says, ‘He is sooo cool!  I was there for the loaves and fishes that afternoon.  He fed all of us out of a few baskets of food.  How did that happen?’

If it had been an ancient reality show with all of today’s high tech, you can guarantee this would have been televised live from Jerusalem. Near the end of the week everyone would have been texting in to ‘vote’ for or against Jesus. 

So, you and your family go to catch a glimpse of him on Sunday, which Christians now observe as Palm Sunday.  You get there early so that you can be standing right on the main road as he comes in.  And, what a day it is!  You can hear cheering from miles away as he rides in on a donkey.

Everyone in the crowd recognises that the donkey means that Jesus is coming in peace.  Some of them think that, as the Messiah, Jesus will overturn Roman rule.  Others aren’t sure but want to see what’s going on.  People cover the road with palm branches and even their own cloaks!  It’s a moment they’ll never forget.

But this happy atmosphere does not last.  Before the week is out, Jesus will be put on trial, and people will begin to change their minds.  When push comes to shove, some won’t want it known that they supported Jesus.  If this were a reality show, the phone lines would be jammed with texts and calls: ‘Jesus or Barabbas — you choose!  The governor, Pontius Pilate, has declared an open popular vote on Friday, before the Sabbath.  You can even show up in person to make your voice heard!’

Present day Palm Sunday is the time to see how those events unfolded, from Sunday to Friday.  As you hear the Gospel read, think to yourself, ‘Would I have denounced Jesus when Pilate asked, “Jesus, King of the Jews, or Barabbas?”‘  Jesus never committed any crime, but the crowd seemed awfully sure they wanted the criminal, Barabbas, released.  And, when the crowd spoke, Pilate, not wishing to get too involved — typical politician — washed his hands of the whole affair. 

No matter how many times people hear the Gospel readings detailing what happened on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, they are always moved.  Why?  Because we recognise ourselves in those crowds.  Whom would we have chosen?  Jesus or Barabbas?

So, take an hour out of your day this Sunday — Palm Sunday — to explore this event, the greatest ‘reality’ story ever told.  You won’t be disappointed.

Follow Churchmouse Campanologist throughout Holy Week in the run-up to Easter to understand why each day is significant.  See you on Monday!