By Revd. Mduduzi Simphiwe Mathe, St Pauls Anglican Church, Durban.
Today is Palm Sunday every year in our Christian calendar we celebrate this day. It is also a Sunday before Easter. Every year on a Saturday morning here at St Paul’s we meet and make palm crosses for the congregation which are distributed on Palm Sunday. On the actual day we process while singing all glory Laud and Honour praising the redeemer who is King. Unfortunately this year these festivities surrounding this day could not take place.
We read in today’s text that was meant for the blessing of the branches, that Jesus sent his disciples to the village where they were to find a donkey tied up with her colt. He told them to untie the donkey and the colt and bring them to him, he tells them that if anyone asks where they are taking them they should answer that the master needs them, and that he would bring them back immediately. The text also tells us that all this happened so that a prophecy may be fulfilled. After that Jesus rides on the donkey and the crowds are singing and shouting hosanna for their king is entering the city of Jerusalem.
So too on which for us is known as palm Sunday we recreate the day that was the celebration of Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. On this day like his followers and disciples we use palm branches to signal this triumphant entrance. According to the text they laid down their clothes and some palm branches for Christ to ride on. This was done to create a carpet for him to ride on as a conqueror. It was also a sign of welcoming him as their king. This was something that was done for kings after they had conquered in battle; this king however comes to them riding on a donkey.
Why does Jesus ride on a donkey? Why does he not enter riding on a horse like other kings? The answer to that question is that Jesus was a different type of ruler not an ordinary king of an ordinary kingdom, he did this to signal that he was the Messiah, to make sure that those who saw him would realise that he was a ruler, the Messiah that the scriptures spoke of. He was the one that would save them from the Roman Empire at least that is what they expected of him (Zeph 9:9).
Jesus enters Jerusalem just before the start of the Passover a festival that was celebrated by the people of Israel. This was a festival where they remembered God saving them and their first born sons when those of the Egyptians were killed, this was the Exodus story where Yahweh had saved them from slavery. Jesus was there as another saviour who they thought was there to save them by destroying the Roman Empire and setting them free. So it was a celebration all around when they were welcoming a person who to them was a symbol of victory and would bring back the reign of the people of Israel.
Jesus too shared the excitement of returning home to his people after he had spent some time in the wilderness. However in the veil of all this excitement was his death. Jesus walks or enters into Jerusalem rejoicing knowing that these people who welcome him now in this manner were there to crucify him. He enters into a city where he was to meet his demise; however he goes there anyway because he had a mission to fulfil in reforming the people of God.
Jesus enters a city that was unjust, where religious practices had started being used to extort money out of the poor. Jesus enters a city where all the vulnerable had been kicked aside and placed in the margins and seen to have been punished by God. He enters Jerusalem with joy even though he is to die because he knows that he needs to bring about change in an unjust society. The people of Jerusalem thought that Jesus was to save them from the bondage that they had been placed in by the Roman Empire, they are surprised when they realise that in fact Jesus is not there for that. He is a Messiah that is there to save Israel against itself its own injustices and the religious piety that had subjected people to suffering.
The people were shouting Hosanna, Hosanna, meaning save us save us and they wanted to be saved from their oppressors the Roman Empire, however Jesus was there to save them from who they were to save them from themselves.
Some of you might be asking yourselves okay mfundisi you have told us about Jesus entering Jerusalem and saving the people of Israel from their own devices and their own prejudices so what does it mean to us how can we benefit from this? What is the good news for us?
Jesus is here to save us from ourselves to save us from our own selfishness, our own greed, our own prejudices and our own hatred of what is foreign to us. Even though we are in our homes and have not walked up the streets and enacted the occurrences of Palm Sunday by bearing palm branches and singing hymns of praise to Jesus who enters Jerusalem. However today we sing in our homes and in our rooms anticipating a saviour who is here to save us from the pandemic that we are facing today which is the Corona virus or Covid 19, also in the midst of deaths and illness that are as a result of this pandemic, Jesus enters our homes to save us from ourselves to save us from our own habits uncleanliness. Jesus enters our homes as a sign of hope and restoration where in a time of panic we are taught to think of others either than ourselves. Where in order to save others from getting this virus or stopping the virus from moving we are urged to stay home. He enters our homes in a time where we are alone and saves us from our own habits of thinking we can exist on our own without other people and he teaches to appreciate the experiences that we share when we are in communion with one another.
The good news is even in this time of seclusion Jesus enters our homes and saves us from our own fears and even in the midst of our own fears dwell with us and amongst us.