Reflection for Palm Sunday

‘Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” John 12: 12,13. 

”Fling wide gates! He waits, the Saviour waits….Then on to the end, my God and my Friend.” From ‘Procession to Calvary’ in Stainer’s Oratorio ‘The Crucifixion.’

As a child, I remember singing this chorus from Stainer’s ‘Crucifixion’ with its striking description of Jesus as both God and Friend. The stirring music helped me to see Jesus in my mind’s eye as he entered Jerusalem through the Golden Gate, riding on a colt and accompanied by cheering crowds throwing cloaks and palm branches onto the ground for the donkey to walk on. That Gate in the East of the city is noted in scriptures such as Ezekiel 43:1 as the one through which the Messiah will enter and it was later sealed as Ezekiel 44:1,2 had prophesied. Actual palm branches from the Holy Land were bought by my parents when the vicar decided to discard them and their many thin and desiccated leaves, from which the traditional palm crosses are made, helped me to realise what a dry and arid place Jerusalem must have been.

Today, another city is dominating the headlines as at least 137 people have been killed and more than 200 injured by terrorists at the Crocus Concert Hall on the outskirts of Moscow. A rock concert had been sold out and those present were gunned down at random with the hall then being set ablaze. As many tried to flee, some of the exits were locked and unusable so refuge had to be sought in the basement until the security forces arrived. Jesus, a man wanted by the authorities and whose life was endangered, was free to come and go through the city gates but these citizens in peril were unable to move freely even though the authorities had been warned by American diplomats of a possible terrorist attack a fortnight earlier. It was suggested that large public gatherings such as concerts should be avoided – was this information passed on? Did the concert goers know of the possible danger, were they unaware of it or did they choose to ignore it? 

It was alleged that President Putin thought that the information was blackmail, to destabilise Russia – but it proved to be true. Pandemonium and panic broke out and, as the bodies are removed, the shocked families mourn and the wounded receive hospital treatment, so the forensic examinations have begun to establish what happened and why – as Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” 

Billboards in Moscow proclaim ‘We mourn 22.03.2024’ but – appalling though it is – this is just one of so many attacks on freedom evident today. The word Pandemonium originates in Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ as the place of all the demons or evil spirits – and many of those present may struggle to come to terms with the terrible things they have seen and heard. Jesus confronted the power of evil and death which tried and failed to contain him and, in our time, the battle still goes on – where do we stand in it all and what can be done to ensure that justice, hope and love will prevail? 

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.