Palm Sunday

Meditation before Service

Palm Sunday is a moveable feast which always falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates an event reported by all four Canonical Gospels Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19: the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem in the days before his Passion.

According to the Gospels, before entering Jerusalem, Jesus was staying at Bethany and Bethphage, and the Gospel of John adds that he had dinner with Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha. While there, Jesus is described by the Synoptic Gospels as sending two unnamed disciples to the village over against them, in order to retrieve a colt that had been tied up but never been ridden, and to say, if questioned, that the colt was needed by the Lord but would be returned in a short period of time.

Both John and the Synoptics state that Jesus then rode the colt (or in Matthew the colt and its mother) into Jerusalem, with the Synoptics adding that the disciples had first put their cloaks on it, so as to make it more comfortable. The Gospels go on to describe how Jesus rode into Jerusalem, and how the people there lay down their cloaks in front of him, and also lay down small branches of trees. The people are also described as singing part of Psalm 118: …Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father, David… (Psalm 118:25-26).

It was a common custom in many lands in the ancient Near East to cover, in some way, the path of someone thought worthy of the highest honour. The Hebrew Bible reports that Joshua was treated this way.

The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and of victory, in Jewish tradition, and is treated in other parts of the bible as such (e.g. Leviticus 23:40 and Revelation 7:9). Because of this, the scene of the crowd greeting Jesus by waving palms and carpeting his path with them has given the Christian festival its name. It also shows the freedom wanted by the Jews, and their desperation to have political freedom.

But, as we know, the crowd that shouted, “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday shouted “Crucify” only five days later. This evening's meditation encompasses that change, alludes to the concept of the Servant King and leads us to the foot of the cross on Good Friday. However, we pass through the veil and glimpse the Easter Hope: “All for Jesus, Glorified!”

Final Intercessions

Forgiveness at the Cross

We bring before God the needs of our world and those
who carry the cross in their lives and reflect on our hopes
of the cross to elect the Kingdom.
We stand with Christ in his suffering.
For forgiveness for the many times we have denied Jesus,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

For the ways we have nailed others to the cross by our
pride, insecurity and hatred,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

For those who live in the shadow of the cross today
that through its power, it may be a sign of hope in despair,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

For the upholding of the law and to remember its purpose
for a better society; may the cross be its fulfilment and
point us to love,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

For those who are tempted to give up the way of the cross,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

That we, with those who have died in faith,
may find mercy in the day of Christ,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

For ourselves that we may be faithful to the sign of the
cross placed on our heads at baptism and place our faith
at the centre of all we are and what we do.
Holy God, holy and strong, holy and immortal,
have mercy upon us.