Palm Sunday has often been a celebration for churches as we recall the people long ago who went out to greet Jesus coming into Jerusalem.
I have been in many services and at events where the excitement of the moment has been highlighted by children waving palm branches, people holding signs or placards with words like “hosanna” and “rejoice” emblazoned across them.
We have drawn ourselves into the story. We have explored our feelings and often we have been challenged with the notion that the crowd who yell “Hosanna!” at the beginning of the week also yell “crucify him!” at the end of the week.
And so we come this day and we celebrate again Palm Sunday and maybe we lay our cloaks on the ground as we witness the miracle once again. Maybe we lift our hands in praise and shout “hosanna!”
Yet, as I thought about this scene again, and the people that came out by the roadside so long ago, I was left wondering about the cloaks that didn’t find their way onto the road that day as Jesus approached Jerusalem. I wondered about the people who didn’t come down to welcome Jesus as he entered the city – the cloaks that stayed at home.
Who were these people?
Was Jesus coming for them as well?
For the ones who did not come out that day?
Maybe one of these cloaks belonged to a woman with small children, a mother who had the responsibility to put food on the table and to feed her young brood. The religious festival may have just seemed a burden to her already busy life, even if her faith was strong. To drag the children down to the roadside to see some so-called itinerant king coming into the city may have felt a foolish waste of time. So many chores and jobs to do! Her cloak remained in the house. Does Jesus come for her as well?
Maybe one of these cloaks belong to a Roman soldier so far from his home and family. He had to work in Pilate’s palace on that day. He had to patrol the corridors of earthly power and protect the governor. His cloak never made the ground before Jesus, it was with him at his daily work. Does Jesus come for him?
Maybe one of these cloaks was a child’s cloak. A kid running in the street with his friends and just doing what the kids did. He played and cajoled and drifted here and there and had no interest in the adults and their parades and processions. His cloak stayed at home because when you run along the streets with your friends you don’t need a cloak on. Does Jesus enter Jerusalem for this child?
Or, maybe one of the cloaks belonged to someone old, someone who was struggling with their health. It was too hard to get out of the house on that day. Who needed crowds anyway? Life was hard and the toll of aging meant worries about attending religious festivals were not what they used to be. Does Jesus enter Jerusalem for them as well?
You see more often than not we think about the story from the perspective of those who show up, even if we admit that the crowd is fickle, that each one of us is fickle. But what about those who don’t show up, who don’t understand what is going on, who maybe don’t even care, those who don’t get involved.
Which leads me to a somewhat obvious question what about the ones who are not here today?
The parents who took their children and their sporting equipment off to the next event. Who are busy all week and want to have some quality time letting their kids do what they want to do. The parents who see Sunday as sacred family time. Does Jesus have space for them?
The people in the shopping centres working because so many of us are drawn to the shops on our day off and we are embedded in a deep culture of consumerism. We are driven by the market. Or maybe the people who are working in our hospitals, or as police or as firefighters who have to take a shift this day whilst we have privilege and opportunity to be here worshipping God.
Or maybe even more controversially we might think those who have rejected the Christian notion or understanding of God. People from different religions or from none. People for whom the church has not been there or even has caused distress and pain in their lives.
Does Jesus enter Jerusalem for them as well?
There is a clue to this perplexing issue in Jesus answer when the Pharisees say, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
“The stones would shout out!”
What is occurring as Jesus enters Jerusalem is not just for the benefit of the few gathered but is an event for the whole creation. The event is not simply for the ones that turned up it has cosmic implications. There are overtones in this of what Paul had written about Jesus to the Colossians – he is the cosmic Christ. Or maybe at the beginning of John’s gospel in the beginning was the Word and all things came into being through him.
Does Jesus enter Jerusalem for the people who did not turn up?
We can only hope so for if the very stones would cry out the extent of the grace in this moment is not within our spiritual or intellectual scope to judge.
What does this mean for those of who are here? What does it mean for we who do lay our cloaks down or take up our branches to call our hosanna?
If Jesus entry into Jerusalem is for people who don’t come to church we could easily ask ourselves what is the point of us giving up this time in our mundane and our busy lives.
For me the answer is as simple and as complex as it was on that day – God loves us as we who have had a glimpse of Jesus power and authority are drawn to respond. We are drawn into following and celebrating God’s love revealed in him.
In gathering here we lay the cloak of our lives before Jesus we offer ourselves to him and we sing out “Hosanna” and “Save us” not because we are the privilege few and that we can judge anyone else but simply because God is and God loves.
On this day when prophecies are fulfilled, when Jesus comes riding in on a donkey and a colt, our excitement is held in check by our knowledge that whilst we might yell “hosanna” today “crucify him” is just as easy on the next day. And, more than this we are reminded of all the cloaks still at home, the people who are not with us here, the ones for whom God’s relationship and offering may remain a mystery to us and to them.
The good news is this, the stones themselves would cry out, for Jesus the Christ is coming.