28 March 2010. Palm Sunday
Isaiah 50, 4-7; Psalm 22; Phil 2, 6-11; Luke 23, 1-49
Palm Sunday commemorates the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, an event reported by all four Gospels. All Gospels tells us that before his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus spent time at Bethany with Martha, Mary and Lazarus and sent two unnamed disciples to fetch a colt in Jerusalem. Jesus rode on this colt when He entered Jerusalem, while people lay on His path their cloaks and tree branches. In the Eastern tradition, the colt or donkey is a symbolism of peace, while the horse is a symbolism of war. If a king rides a horse, he is bent on war. If a king rides a donkey, he is coming in peace. There is a prophesy that the Messiah will be riding on a horse to declare war against Israel’s enemies (e.g. Rome), but Jesus did not declare war but peace.
The people sang excerpts from Psalm 118: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh; Blessed is the coming of our father, David.” In the Near East, it was customary to cover the path of someone whom they believed deserves the highest honor. Joshua in the Hebrew bible has been treated the same way, as many of others in pre-Christian mystery religions such as Dionysius. It was in the Gospel of John that specifically mentioned palm fronds; Matthew, Mark and Luke mentioned cut rushes (like cogon grass) being laid on the path. In Jewish tradition, the palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory (Leviticus 23, 40 & Revelations 7, 9). However, not all countries at present celebrate Palm Sunday with a palm branch; countries without palms such as Russia and Ukraine use pussy willows instead; and in other parts of the world, they use olive branches and other tree branches as well. Thus, it is sometimes called “Branch Sunday”.
There are certainly important elements in the origins of Palm Sunday. First, we see the Savior. Second, we celebrate the triumphal entry of the Savior into the place of His sufferings and pains. Third, the people who pay the highest honor will be the same people who will condemn him.
In our lives, there are members of the family whom we consider our Savior. These are the people who have received a better education among the members of the family. These are the people whom people would put their hopes for a better life. Many of these people are the ones who support their families — and extended families. For example, many overseas Filipino workers and bread winners are the saviors of our families. Second, when these people enter their own Jerusalems, whether it is about getting a new job here or abroad, many of us rejoice that finally, our hopes will be realized. And we “lay our cloak and wave our branches” as we see them off at the airport. Not knowing what pain and suffering is in store for them abroad or even in working. Third, many people who have triumphantly hailed these family saviors of ours, sometimes turn out to be the very people who would spend recklessly money from the sweat of those who work.
In our lives, we can ask ourselves who are our ‘saviors’ and see how much we have supported them; the support which they rightfully deserve.