Entry into Jerusalem, Roland Luke Dingman.
They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Luke 19:38.
Those words are so familiar as they are proclaimed at the Sanctus, Holy Holy, in the Mass, but they are also proclaimed in Psalm 118, verse 26. In other words, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was seen at the time as the fulfillment of the prophecy found in that psalm (also the prophecy of Zechariah). The time had come, the Messiah was here! Everyone had heard the stories of his miraculous cures, the signs clearly given concerning the arrival of the Messiah. The crowds were enormous, they hailed him as the king of the Jews, the One who would lead them to freedom and glory, re-establish the throne of David and proclaim a triumphant new age for the Hebrew people (note that only the gospel of John mentions palms being spread out before him). This event meant in the eyes of most people, of course, the military defeat of the pagan Roman occupiers of the Promised Land. It was all happening, just as the Scriptures foretold. It was now a matter of time before Jesus called them all to arms, and with God’s power, all the Gentile, pagan people would be expelled or crushed and David’s kingdom would come to life once again. Except, unhappily in their eyes, it didn’t. There was no rallying cry to arms, no mustering of troops, no speeches aimed at inspiring the people to rise up against their pagan enemy. Instead, silence, with Jesus teaching quietly in the temple. Day after day, silence, as the great feast of Passover approached, the feast commemorating the victory over the Egyptian enemy by God’s power, the release of the people from their bondage. The timing was perfect! No wonder the people were breathless with anticipation, ready to do anything Jesus told them to do. But there was silence. He did not tell them to do anything! By the time the feast was upon them the adulation of Palm Sunday had changed into the bitterest of disappointment, and instead, outraged at this apparent deception, they called for his blood. In a matter of days, hope had changed to despair among the people. Now only his destruction would satisfy them. So these two extremes are remembered today, hence the name Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, and the solemn reading of the Passion at today’s Mass.
Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, Wilhelm Morgner, from Art in the Christian Tradition, Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville TN, USA.
And so we approach the climax of Jesus’ ministry, namely, the events he had been predicting throughout the previous three years, to the consternation of his disciples. He knew what was to happen, ever since his days in the wilderness following his baptism in the Jordan. All the Scriptures referring to the Messiah had to be fulfilled, including the “Suffering Servant” prophecies of Isaiah. They would now be enacted totally and completely.
And so Holy Week begins, the most sacred time of the year in the Christian church. At that time, 2000 years ago, many of the Jewish faithful would have made their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the center of which in those days was the temple. This had been rebuilt by King Herod and was, apparently, quite a spectacular creation. It stood on the original site of the temple built by King Solomon, which had been destroyed by the pagan army of King Nebuchadnezzar 500 or so years before Jesus. It had held the sacred Ark of the Covenant, inside which were the stones of the 10 Commandments which Moses had received from God. All that vanished with the temple’s destruction, and many have the theories been which suggest it still exists. Today in Jerusalem the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine, stands where the temple did once.
Dome of the Rock on the Temple Site, Jerusalem, Israel, Summer 2018.
In the picture above, the bluish-grey domes in the distance to the left of the golden Dome of the Rock are the roof of the Holy Sepulchre, where it is believed Jesus was crucified and buried, the site of his resurrection.
Today’s second reading from Philippians is one of the most beautiful in all of Scripture. It tells in a few words the whole of Jesus’ ministry, his dedication to us and to God, and the suffering which fell upon him as a consequence: Though he was in the form of God….. he humbled himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. This week we will commemorate the dread events of Our Lord’s passion and death, his solemn burial, and the wondrous event which makes us all Christians, his conquest of death itself. Remember that Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence.
Calvary, Michael Godard Art Gallery.