Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!
Some two thousand or so years ago, two processions entered the city of Jerusalem – but from opposite directions.
In one procession, seated on his horse and accompanied by his legionaries was the Roman Governor, Pilate. It was his custom to be present in Jerusalem for all the major Jewish festivals, quite possibly so that he was able to be there with his soldiers to direct the keeping of order and to quell any potential rebellion.
The other procession was a complete contrast. The adopted son of a carpenter, a humble man, riding into the city on the back of a donkey. A donkey. Not a horse, a donkey, that lowliest member of the equine species, a symbol of poverty and simplicity.
And this man knew that the next time he left the city, it would be by an entirely different route, going to an ignominious and extremely painful death carrying the cross to which his hands and feet would be nailed.
One can only speculate that the Chief Priests and Elders of the Jewish Temple heard of the entry into the city of this man, heard of how the people chose to go to greet him, laying a carpet before him of olive branches and their own clothing, and began to get very worried about this man. A man from Nazareth – Jesus, Son of Joseph – and maybe they asked themselves “given his age, how did he manage to avoid Herod’s massacre thirty-three years before?”
No doubt they had heard of the crowds who had been flocking to hear this man speak, and given that he was a direct challenge to their authority – and therefore to their privileged position with the Roman occupiers – had already determined that they were going to get rid of him, somehow.
Of course, Jesus knew all of this. He knew that within a few days the crowd, now welcoming him to Jerusalem would turn nasty, and, whipped to a frenzy by the High Priests and Elders of the Temple, would be baying for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be crucified, despite Pilate stating that he could find no case against Jesus.
But before anybody starts thinking that this was some sort of evil plan, it was far from that. It was all God’s work coming to fruition. It took centuries before the Roman Church finally acknowledged that the Jewish People bore no blame whatsoever for the death of Jesus. But Jesus Himself knew that at the time – even in the depths of His suffering. He knew exactly what was contained in His Father’s plan and he accepted what was to happen willingly and with humility.
Blessed John Henry Newman summed this up many centuries later when he wrote his meditation:
God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.
Yes, Jesus came into this world to do His Father some definite service – to die on the cross in order that the sins of the world may be forgiven and that all people may be drawn closer His Father, our God of Love sitting on His Throne of Grace.
In the name of the Father, ✠ and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen