- A Palm Sunday Special - My face in the crowd

Eleanor Deckert
Sometimes it all seems too far away. What do I know about life in ancient times? Hot, dusty, loud, smelly - jostling crowds, crying babies, ragged beggars, robes and regalia proclaiming wealth and rank, sandals and headdresses, vendors and slaves, donkeys and camels – none are part of my experience.

Sometimes the Bible seems faded and foreign. What does any of it have to do with me, today, here?
Sometimes it seems to leap off the page. Voices pour out in colourful drama, shouts and conflict, pressure and tension. A complex movie-like scene fills my imagination and each character and turning point is bold and significant.
Palm Sunday is one of the dramatic stories I like the most. I will always remember an especially vibrant Palm Sunday when I taught our four children the story using their Lego characters to build the scene. Colourful townsfolk lined the street. I cut paper palm branches and little cloth tunics to spread along the pathway. 'Jesus' was a bearded Lego man all dressed in white. We had to use a Lego horse to act the part of the donkey. The Medieval Lego soldiers doubled quite well for the threatening Romans with shields, swords, and spears at the ready. The Temple priests could be identified by the Lego 'wizard' white beard.
After we built a Temple, laid out the palm branches, arranged the characters, I read aloud while the children moved the little men through the sequence of the story. More powerful than reading ink on paper, more meaningful than a church ritual, more emotional than the passive experience of watching a movie, I felt a new understanding while we each participated in the once-in-history scene.
I could sense the conflicting forces swirling through the crowd.
The disciples have become used to the crowds swarming, but this day was different. They have just recently become aware of the reality of Jesus' identity. Their Master astounded them just a few days ago with the message, "We are going to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be betrayed, condemned to death, beaten and crucified. On the third day he will be raised from the dead." The Transfiguration had been followed by raising Lazarus from the dead; and, no one has ever said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life."
The crowds gathering in Jerusalem for the Passover had seen and heard Jesus teaching and healing in many towns for the last three years. When they saw him riding into the holy city on a donkey, the 500 year-old prophesy rose in their hearts. ""Rejoice! Shout, Jerusalem! Your king is coming, riding on a donkey!" For well over 1000 years they had been waiting and realized Jesus was "The Son of David!" Since the time of Moses they have been re-enacting the Passover, trusting in God to save them once-and-for-all when the Messiah comes. This is it!
The Romans, ever watchful, fearing rebellion, were aware of the rumors of a new 'king.' Impossible to let such a threat continue, spies and assassins were ready to obey their commanders.
And what were the High Priest and his advisors thinking - aware of the prophecies, aware of the popularity of this itinerant, ragged Preacher, aware of the tension with Rome, aware of the layers of meaning within the Passover feast, aware of the risk either way - to accept a false Messiah or miss the true Anointed One?
The peasants cheering, the disciples wondering, the guards rigid, the priests huddled; and Jesus, quiet, calm. Was he entirely aware of the way the next days would unfold?
I remember the family focused on this story on this day; but suddenly, I wondered. Where is my face in this crowd? Do I stay close to Jesus while he is popular, and then run and hide when he is not? Do I shout with confidence one minute and then shout to condemn the next? Does my position seem threatened? Do I feel comfortable in ritual, but confused by real-life application of what I believe?
Can you imagine it?
Where is your face in this crowd?