|Mural over the altar in Fransiscan Church at Bethphage|
And so it begins - Holy Week. It begins with a man on a donkey and people asking “who is this?” Imagine the old walled city of Jerusalem, getting crowded ready for Passover. The Roman occupying power needed extra security to prevent trouble. There was often trouble, threats of rebellion.
Supposing there’d been helicopters in 1st century Palestine. Imagine yourself in one, looking down on the city. You see the huge golden domed temple. You see the busy narrow streets. You see two processions entering the city from different directions.
On the main road coming from his winter quarters on the Mediterranean you see the Governor Pontius Pilate on a fine stallion. Alongside him, riding and marching into the city are highly-trained and well-armed Roman soldiers, a lot of them. People line the streets cheering - probably paid to cheer or threatened with violence if they didn’t. Here are the conquerors who have brought peace – of a sort. Everyone watching this procession has to cheer . . . or risk violent punishment, even death. You wonder, what's going on? How long can this 'peace' last?
On the other side, on the steep narrow path from Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, you see a second procession. Is this an anti Roman demonstration? Is this a group looking for trouble? In the middle you see a man on a donkey and people spreading cloaks and branches of trees on the road ahead. You see people cheering.They don't look as if they are being forced to shout praises. It doesn't look like 'rent-a-crowd'. It looks as if the man on the donkey is being treated like some sort of a king. You wonder, what’s going on? Who is this?
Who is Jesus? How do you answer that question?
This post is the 40th in a series of daily Lenten reflections based on a Bible reading from the Common worship Lectionary of the Church of England. This one is based on Matthew 21: 1-11.
Photo: my own