Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Day Palm Sunday Happened

It's easy to become so accustomed to the Bible stories we've heard since childhood that we forget they're not just stories; they histories.  Every incident related in the Bible was a day in a life: a day in the life of Jesus, our Saviour; a day in the life of His apostles; a day in the life of the people they met as they walked the dusty roads. 

 Following is an excerpt from one of my favorite Lenten books for meditating, The Day Christ Died, written by Jim Bishop in the late 1950s.  For filling in all the little details, and for making you feel like you're there by the roadside, palm in hand, experiencing the day in His life, this book cannot be beaten.  It's available on Kindle and can be found for as low as .50 a copy used (+ shipping, of course).  Take a look: here

Within a month of having raised Lazarus from the dead; within a week of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, having poured the bottle precious oil upon his feet:

By Sunday morning, the news of the arrival of Jesus was known in every alley in the Holy City.  The people, not bound by the Sabbath, which expired the evening prior, came down the sloping road from the temple toward Bethany to greet him.  They came in festive flocks, and the high priests, watching from the great height of Solomon's Porch, were vexed and passed a resolution condemning Lazarus to death.  They knew that the raising of Lazarus from the dead had excited the people of Jerusalem to a pitch of frenzy for the Messiah; even some who had argued most vehemently that Jesus was not the elect of God were now admitting that he was, and were in the procession which set out to meet him.

It was a clear, cool, lustrous morning, with the spring sun spangling the dewy leaves, and the sky over the white marble of the temple spires was china blue, It was a day to drug the senses with goodness, and soon the road to Bethany was jammed with families, all of whom had their backs to the temple. Some of the pilgrims from Galilee joined their brethren from Judea and many began to pick branches of palm to lay down before the feet of the annointed.

In Bethany, Jesus thanked his hosts, and with his party of apostles and disciples was ready to leave. They walked out to the crossroads, and Jesus pointed to a village nestling against the slope of the Mount of Olives. He said to two of his disciples: "Go into the village directly in front of you and as you enter you will find hitched a foal on which no man has ever sat. Unhitch it and bring it here.

"And, in case anybody asks you: 'Why do you unhitch it?'  just say: 'Because the Lord has need of it.'"

The two went to the little village and found a young donkey, hardly more than three feet tall, tethered to a public post.  They looked around and, seeing no one, untied the line. Two men walked up and, studying the apostles suspiciously, said: "Why do you unhitch the foal?"  The chosen ones looked worried and said: "Because the Lord has need of it."  The owners bowed low and turned away.

When the two apostles returned leading the donkey -- it was gray, with dainty hoofs, as was common to the country -- the others tossed their cloaks onto its back and Jesus, turning his back to the animal, jumped off his toes and sat sideward on the cloaks.

Some started to lead the animal by a halter, but the crowd pressed in heavily on both sides and there was no need to guide it. The road was so thick with people that many families were forced higher into the hills, to ensure a look at the Messiah. Those close to the side of the road threw their cloaks before the hoofs of the donkey and the owners of the capes counted themselves fortunate that the weight of the Saviour had pressed on their apparel.  Others threw palms and early spring flowers.

The Messiah went up the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, and, when he started down the western side, those who called themselves disciples of Jesus gasped as a panorama of people spread below them all the wqay to northeastern gate of the temple.  At once, the disciples burst into song:

A blessing on the King
Who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven
And glory in the heights above!

The donkey moved slowly, and crowds pressed from all sides, crying, "Hosanna to the son of David!" and the people threw the palm branches out and made a pliant green road for him all the way to the city.  The Pharisees cupped their hands above the din and said:"Rabbi, reprove your disciples!" But Jesus, moved by the demonstraation, shook his head and said: "I tell you, if these are dumb, the stones will cry out."

The procession moved down the Mount of Olives and close to the garden of the gethsemane, then across the Brook Cedron and up the far side, past the cemetery of white stones and ossuaries, and into the northeastern gate, between the temple and the Fortress Antonia.

The Roman senties looked down on the scene, and they called to their superiors to come look at the Jews in a happy mood. The hosannas rang to the sky and fathers held infants as high as possible to permit them to look upon the face of the Lord. A group of Sadducean priests tried to use this gate to the temple and were forced by the press of the mob to go around to the western side. They were frightened at what Jesus had done to the people of Jerusalem, and some reported to Caiphas that not only had the people acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, but that some Pharisees and elders had been seen bending the knee to the faker. Unless something was done quickly, the temple would have no authority.

When Jesus reached the gate of the temple, he stopped the donkey. The press of people on three sides of him was now augmented by pilgrims running from the Gentile court toward him.

Jesus broke down.  Tears shimmered on his lids and then he sobbed.  He bowed his head and murmered:

Oh, if you, too, did know,
at least on this your day,
what makes for peace!
But alas it is hidden from your eyes!
Days are coming upon you
when your enemies
will throw a rampart round you,
and encircle you,
and press hard upon you on every side;
and they will dash to the ground
both you and your children within,
nor will they leave stone upon stone
within your walls'
because you didnot recognize
the time of your visitiation."

From The Day Christ Died, by Jim Bishop
Nihil Obstat: John A. Goodwine, J.C.D.
Imprimatur: Francis Cardinal Spellman, archbishop of New York, 1957

1 comment:

Cathy Keller said...

Wishing you a beautiful and solemn Holy Week! And Happy Easter to you and your family!