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Thoughts on Palm Sunday

20 April 2008

Lent is now over, and Holy Week is about to begin.

Today we went to Tembisa for the Hours and Readers Service in a simple classroom, with ikons of Christ and the Theotokos propped on a table. We had no palms, but we did sing, many times, the Troparion:

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy Passion
Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God
Like the children with palms of victory
We cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death
Hosanna in the highest
Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.

And three things stand out from the gospel readings for this Sunday, and last Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Sunday of St Mary of Egypt.

Last Sunday the gospel reading was Mark 10:35-45; this Sunday it is John 12:1-18.

And they all point inexorably to Golgotha, where Jesus is going, and though he tries to warn them, his disciples don’t see it.

James and John ask for places at his left and right when he comes to his kingdom. He has tried to warn them, but they don’t get it. He tells them that they don’t know what they are asking for. His kingdom is not like the kingdoms of this world, where rulers throw their weight around. His kingdom is not of this world, and in fact it turns the values of the world’s kingdoms upside down.

Firstly, kings are anointed, and kings of Israel should be anointed on the head by the high priest, in the temple. Jesus, however, is anointed, not on his head, but on his feet; not in the temple, but in an ordinary house; not by the high priest, but by a housewife.

Secondly, kings travel in magnificent processions, pomps, preferably with their conquered enemies travelling humiliated behind them. Nowadays they travel in motorcades, withn the most expensive cars and escorts with flashing lights. Jesus rides to Jerusalem on an ass, and makes an ass of the world’s notions of kingship. Here is an acted parable of what he had told James and John and the other disciples: those who are supposed to rule the nations lord it over them and exercise authority over them, but it is not to be so among you.

And thirdly, when he came to his kingdom it was revealed to whom it was given to be at his right hand and his left: two criminals who were crucified with him.

In these three things Jesus revealed that his kingdom was not of this world, and turned worldly notions of kingship and leadership upside down.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 22 April 2008 5:48 am

    And a blessed Pascha to you!

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