Liturgy of the Palms
Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29; Luke 19: 28-40
The passage from Luke is familiar to us because we hear it every year, or at least we hear the story from the different perspectives of Matthew, Mark, or Luke every year. But Luke’s story is different; he leaves us at the crest of the Mount of Olives about two miles from the city and at verse forty-five jumps a whole day to record the cleansing of the temple. So, our picture of the residents of Jerusalem greeting their king and crowding the city streets is not a Lucan picture.
But it does make us wonder who the multitude that is with Jesus as he journeys from Bethany to the crest of the Mount of Olives might be.
Let’s look at the possibilities. Certainly, the Twelve were there; they have been Jesus’ companions on his itinerant ministry for the last three years. It is quite likely that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, his friends with whom he stayed while in Bethany, were with him along with other townsfolk who knew Jesus well – not quite like the Twelve, but longtime friends and followers. Perhaps some were fellow pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for the Passover feast just as it seems that Jesus and the Twelve were doing; travelling with Jesus may have led many of them to listen to his teaching and become interested in the works and words of this young rabbi – new followers but perhaps not yet disciples. Some may be hangers on who are travelling simply because they are buoyed by the energy of the travelers or because the crowd offers a chance to pick a few pockets. Perhaps some came out from Jerusalem when they heard he was nearby to find out what was happening. It was likely a very mixed lot.
But who are we in this crowd? Are we the Twelve who, when they fell asleep while he was praying and could do nothing when he was arrested, ran away and hid in shame? Are we the loyal friends who later stood at the foot of the cross perhaps wondering how it came to this? Are we those new followers who, when they sense the tide turning against Jesus, will shout for him to be crucified? Most likely we are three rolled into one. But out his love for us, Jesus will weep over us and forgive us.