From palms of praise to a path of pain – a Palm Sunday reflection
It was my first visit to Jerusalem. I stood at the Lions’ Gate, the nearest to The Golden Gate, long bricked up, through which Jesus probably rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. The streets there are mostly narrow: you feel hemmed in by buildings that stand today where earlier buildings stood well over 2000 years ago.The crowd’s shouts of ‘Hosanna!’ would have echoed and re-echoed off the walls when Jesus entered the city – that’s why we read that the very ‘stones cried out’.
Don’t imagine a vast crowd: it would have been physically impossible for the thousands of Jerusalem residents and Passover visitors to cram themselves into this confined area.
So how many of them would a few days later have shouted for his execution and how many of them watched him as he struggled, beaten and bleeding carrying his cross along the narrow streets? Probably not very many, and predominantly different people.
I decided to follow the Via Dolorosa, the route Jesus is thought to have taken, carrying his cross.
I was shocked by the experience. I suppose I expected a quiet, reverential mood as I joined a group of Franciscans who were carrying a huge wooden cross along this ‘path of suffering’. Yes, the Christians who joined them were reflective and prayerful.
But I became angrier by the minute, as we had to push our way through passers-by and run the gauntlet of rip-off traders trying to entice us to their shops or stalls. ’Welcome to come in, sir’…’Very cold Coca Cola?’…’Lady pictures’….’Good price for dollars’…
I felt affronted…was this ‘Holy Jerusalem’? I had to get away.
So I left the jostling crowd and made my way to the quietness of a garden near the Damascus Gate, a garden where there is an ancient rock tomb, the sort in which Jesus was buried – the Garden Tomb.
I sat for a long time, peaceful and uninterrupted.
Then it suddenly dawned on me….the crowds wouldn’t have changed much in 2,000 years…of the many of those watching Jesus taking painful step after painful step, few would have been reverential. Life went on around him – grasping traders out to make a quick buck, onlookers hurling mocking insults. But he bore all that for me. He kept on going for me.
I felt ashamed to have walked away from the harsh reality of an indifferent world. Like Jesus, I had to confront it.
So I got up and walked back to join another cross-led procession, in pilgrimage with my Lord along the ‘path of suffering’ – for that is how we are all called to lead our lives.
Lord, help me to keep shouting my Hosannas, whatever life throws at me…whoever bars my way…wherever you lead me. Amen.
Geoff Marshall-Taylor, Church Warden