Understanding the drama of Palm Sunday
by Nelson Price
Columnist
March 24, 2013 12:00 AM | 736 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Historical events are better understood when framed in their natural setting and the customs of the era. The understanding of one such event is so misunderstood I want to share on it again. The event is known as Psalm Sunday. Our Western mentality and unfamiliarity with the setting for the event lessens the drama for us.

Jerusalem sits on a mountain bordered on the eastern side by the Kidron Valley. Constituting the western slope of the Kidron is the Mount of Olives. Across the Kidron from crest to crest is approximately one-fourth of a mile.

Pilgrims returning to Jerusalem for festive occasions always camped in the same area. Persons from the Galilee always camped on the southern end of the Mount of Olives.

Bethany, from which Jesus began his journey into Jerusalem that morning, is on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. To get from Bethany to Jerusalem, His route would have taken Him over the southern end of the Mount of Olives and through the Galilean camp.

The Galileans were rural people mostly shepherds and fishermen. Jesus spent much of His time in the region. They knew Him. They had heard Him teach and saw His miracles. Galileans suffered under the Romans and wanted them out of their country.

Many of the citizens of Jerusalem were urban merchants who placated the Romans and profited by their presence. They wanted to accommodate the Romans and maintain the status quo. Peace at any price.

Two gospel writers vary in their reports of Jesus’ mode of transportation. One says He rode a donkey and the other the foal of a donkey, a colt. Both were right. He rode the foal into Jerusalem. It being younger it would not have been able to carry Him the full distance so obviously He rode the older stronger donkey to the city and the foal into the city.

The concept of Jesus as Messiah had not yet become clear. Many conceived of Him as a militant figure to deliver them from Rome. That was especially true of the Galileans. Therefore, as He rode through their camp they shouted His praises. “Hosanna” was a cry rising voluminously from the crowd. At this stage, He was simply their champion come to town. Their hopes were elevated and they didn’t care if the Romans knew it.

Across the Kidron in Jerusalem the shouts were heard and people came out to see what was happening. They didn’t want the Romans offended or challenged lest it interrupt commerce.

A short time later when Jesus was on trial persons cried “Crucify Him.” In our dramas it is said the same people who cried “Hosanna” were the same ones who shouted “Crucify Him.” Not so.

The leaders in Jerusalem incited the people to call for His execution knowing the Romans would look more favorably on them as a result.

We have walked the Psalm Sunday road approximately 40 times as pilgrims will do again this year. It crosses the Kidron which was the dividing line between advocates and adversaries of Jesus. Both groups still exist. They were not and are not one and the same.

From His devotees cries of “Hosanna” still rise to the disapproval of some. To His loyalists He is worthy.

The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church. For copies of previous columns visit www.nelsonprice.com
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