Passion Sunday | Year A
When they were near Jerusalem and had come in sight of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village facing you, and you will immediately find a tethered donkey and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you are to say, “The Master needs them and will send them back directly.” This took place to fulfil the prophecy:
Say to the daughter of Zion:
Look your king comes to you:
he is humble, he rides on a donkey
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.
So the disciples went out and did as Jesus told them. They brought the donkey and the colt, then they laid their cloaks on their backs and he sat on them. Great crowds of people spread their cloaks on the road, while others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in his path. The crowds who went in front of him and those who followed were all shouting:
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heavens!’
And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil. ‘Who is this?’ people asked, and the crowds answered, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’
Jesus was acclaimed by the crowd. It was a prelude to being vilified, abused and killed.
Jesus would have known that there were many very genuine people in the crowd, waving palms because they had encountered him in some way and believed in him. He would also have known that there were others among the crowd who were already fostering the chain of gossip and innuendo that would turn the crowd against him the next day.
Echoes of this extreme behaviour are found in the term “tall poppy syndrome”, which describes the tendency of people to pull down someone who has received acclaim for an achievement or a talent.
When someone has been the victim of gossip and innuendo, the damage done to the person’s good name can be very difficult to repair. So can the damage to the victim’s confidence and self-esteem. When jealousy drives such damaging behaviour, deep wounds can be inflicted and gifts repressed by the fear of attack. The whole community loses.
If this has happened to us, healing is helped by forgiving those who have inflicted the damage. But forgiveness is not easy and may take time to be deep and true. Being with those who love us and seeking wise counsel help, and so does reaching out to others rather than brooding and nursing the pain.
The most difficult stage is shedding the fear that such a situation can cause in us, and finding the confidence again to use our gifts. That is when we truly triumph over the harm inflicted upon us.
We all have our own version of the palm-waving crowd in our lives, and maybe more than one crowd. What part do we play in the crowd – do we genuinely acclaim what others have done or are we looking for a chance to bring them down?
Are we comfortable being part of our particular crowd?