As it is a non AtoZ day, and it’s Palm Sunday, I wanted to share what we heard in church this evening. Our preacher did something a little different and told the story of Matthew 21 from the point of view of one of the pilgrims to Jerusalem. I just had to share it. Hope you enjoy.
Rumours on the way – a telling of Matthew 21
Living in a village on the Jericho Road has its advantages… especially when it’s time for the major festivals in Jerusalem. Our journey into the city was a matter of a few hours unlike our fellow pilgrims who would travel for a few days, or in some instances, a few weeks.
For a couple of days the numbers of pilgrims gradually increased… and we got used to hearing the singing of the psalms of ascent, and soon our voices would be joining theirs. Joining them, we saw that the Jericho road to Jerusalem was teaming with pilgrims. The crowd greeted us warmly… their joy and enthusiasm in anticipation of this great feast at the beginning of our new year was inspiring and infectious. Some expressed feigned jealousy that we lived so close to the city of god; and I received a couple of very tempting offers for my house that I think were serious!
Then as someone began singing, we joined the singing of the ancient psalms that lifted our spirits and confirmed our faith and oneness with God. The voices of the men and women–young and old– and the voices of the children were carried on the warm breezes. When the singing paused, the conversations were not about the latest atrocity committed by the roman soldiers… or the taxes levied the romans and collected by our weasel brothers, who got exorbitantly rich and fat on their profiteering scam… nor was the talk about the recent spate of robberies along this most notorious of all roads… or the political manoeuvrings among the pharisees toward the zealots… No, many were talking about what had happened in Jericho. The name of Jesus was on the lips of the people. His identity was being discussed and debated. All of us had heard tales of miracles and profound teaching, yet none of us would recognize him as we’d never had seen him.
Until today that is…
There were a few in the crowd who claim were just yards away from him when he healed a beggar, known locally us as Blind Bartimaeus. And then they told us about Zacchaeus. There can’t be many who haven’t been fleeced by that apology for a human being; the most despised and disreputable man in all of Jericho. Even in my village, my own family suffered badly because of him! He was so mean he would have taken someone’s last breath. I had more affection for Pilate!
So, you can imagine my amazement when I heard that he had given almost everything he had away after meeting Jesus. Apparently, we were only about an hour behind him. We’d heard that he was in a large group from Jericho including the newly sighted Bartimaeus.
Others by now were joining us, either to listen or to give their own perspective on what had happened. In no time at all we were nearer to Jerusalem, walking up the one side of the Mount of Olives. We knew once we’d reached the top we’d catch out first real glimpse of the city; any aches and pains I had been feeling were disappearing fast. My heart rate was increasing, not out of exertion but excitement. I seemed to be one in a sea of people as we walked through Bethany when our conversation took on another topic…
Why were there palm fronds everywhere? And discarded cloaks scattered on the ground, in doorways and low walls? For the second time today, I was amazed. One of the locals said that Jesus had borrowed his donkey to ride the short distance to the city… adding that in a seemingly spontaneous reaction, the people carpeted the road with whatever was to hand… palm leaves and cloaks, and shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
I came out in a cold sweat.
How often had my father and his father told me that one day, one day, Zechariah’s prophecy would come true. It would happen on a day when no one expected it; but that was no excuse for not anticipating it or longing for it.
Walking on, I racked my brain to remember what they’d said, while at the same time pushing away any regret and self-recrimination. I know they had discussed it with others in the temple courts here in Jerusalem, and I seem to recall the names Simeon and Anna. But that was more than 30 years ago. They like my father and grandfather have long since died so I can’t confirm what they’d said. I was annoyed with myself that I hadn’t listened more carefully. I’d thought them senile old men who in their dotage who were losing the plot, but hadn’t my father said that Simeon claimed to have nursed the messiah… and had told his friends that his time to die was near as he had seen the salvation of god as God had promised he would?
My mind was lost in the past that I don’t remember anything of the walk through the city gates and into the temple courts. It was only when I almost fell over one of the money-chargers who was on all fours picking up the temple coins and roman pennies that I came back to my senses. I couldn’t believe my eyes… for the third time today I was amazed.
The busyness of the temple had been replaced with hostility and resentment. Sacrifices seemed to have slowed to an almost stand-still as priests and worshippers, traders and money-changers discussed the events of the afternoon with raised and angry voices. Jesus had turned over the tables of the sellers of doves and the money changers in what some were calling a fit of pique! He had quoted Jeremiah at them accusing them of making God’s house of prayer into a den of robbers. They said that the authorities either would not or could not stop him. The priests were utterly scathing of him, totally unimpressed by him, summed up by one who said…
“As cool as you like he healed the lame and blind while accepting the praises of some children who were shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ “
I’m writing this at my cousin Malachi’s who I’m staying with during Passover Week, he lives on the Via Dolorosa. Like many others, we’ve discussed all this at length. He’s of the opinion, based on unsubstantiated rumours, that this Jesus well known to the Pharisees and chief priests and hated by them with a passion, is heading for big, big trouble. I was with him when he pointed out Jesus, heading out of the city toward Bethany, where we think he has some very close friends and supporters. He looked composed and calm; tranquil, despite everything that’s gone on. Yet I just sensed he had something on his mind. Something significant, I’ve no idea what it might be, but what could be more significant for him this year than celebrating Passover with his disciples?
Written by Rev Howard Jones