A cheering, chanting, dizzy crowd had stripped the green trees bare,
and hailing Christ as king alone, waved branches in the air
So begins a hymn, relatively new, only written in 1985; it draws the singer and the listener in through the noisy public spectacle of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem to the somber gloom of Good Friday and Jesus' burial.
They laid their garments in the road and spread his path with palms
and vows of lasting love bestowed with royal hymns and psalms.
Palm Sunday starts with a joyful parade, the joy-filled crowd happy to greet this miracle worker they have heard so much about. Like the Israelite Kings of old, this new King of the Jews rode into the city - but his noble steed was a humble donkey. No carpet of royal cloth spread on the road to keep the dust away, but the coats of the people spread to provide the trappings of royalty. Is this parade the story of the people making do with what they have to greet this savior, or is it a tale of people mocking the opulence of the Roman Empire?
When day dimmed down to deepening dark the crowd began to fade
till only trampled leaves and bark were left from the parade
The crowd has dispersed now, gone to their homes. For most people, the euphoria of the arrival of Jesus into the holy city is still humming through their veins. It was an exciting event to be so close to the miracle worker. But the silence of the city gave rise to the thoughts of people who were afraid of what the Roman Empire would do if they received word of a people's rebellion. Jesus himself knew that the noise that swelled wherever he went meant he only had a limited time to teach before he would be arrested and tried for treason and rebellion.
Lest we be fooled because our hearts have surged with passing praise,
remind us God, as this week starts where Christ has fixed his gaze
Palm Sunday is a day for singing and joyful acclaim - but a cloud hovers on the horizon. We have heard the story too many times to not know where it leads. Just was we waited with joyful anticipation Jesus' birth, now we know that Good Friday is coming.
Instead of palms, a winding sheet will have to be unrolled,
a carpet much for fit to greet the king a cross will hold.
A Cheering, Chanting, Dizzy Crowd
text: Thomas H. Troeger, 1985