In preparation for writing, I took a bit of time to explore what other Christian traditions and other leaders of faith had to say about Palm Sunday. What did their reflections emphasize? The Prince of Peace, riding in on a donkey and not a horse? Christ’s ultimate suffering and sacrifice? The fickleness of humanity, one minute cheering on Jesus and shouting: “Hosanna!” only to loudly call for his death a few days later?
All of these ideas came up in one way or another. However, what stood out to me was Palm Sunday as a day of contrasts. On one hand you have the Roman Empire, a bloody kingdom built on war and dominance. On the other, you have Jesus, ushering in a kingdom with no violence, no retaliation, and no retribution. We observe a people who sought out Jesus for healing, for emotional comfort, for hope…then we observe these same people easily whipped, by cunning politicians, into a fearful and angry mob. We see a Jesus who spent so much time preaching, teaching, patiently explaining; now completely silent “like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers” (Isaiah 53: 7b).
As Christians, we enter on Palm Sunday morning with a feeling of celebration, greeting Jesus as he arrives. We exit in sadness, reflecting on his hideous and gruesome death – a necessary price for our salvation.
It is a day of grief.
It is a day of miraculous hope.
It is a day of contrasts.
Dr. Lucy Santos Green