Palm Sunday voices

Mark 11:1-11

A voice from the Crowd
I don’t know why l did it – didn’t then, didn’t now. Don’t look at me like that. You’d have done it too, if you’d been there. The city was heaving – one great mass of squashed-together humanity. There must have been two, three hundred thousand there, even days before the feast came to a head. There wasn’t much to do except spend money in the bazaars – if you had it. And then that morning, the rumours came running into town. ‘Jesus is coming, Jesus is coming, Jesus is coming! Of course, we’d all heard of Jesus – who hadn’t? Here we were, gathering to celebrate God’s great deeds in the past. There he was, acting like God on every street corner. ‘The people’s messiah!’ Healings, forgiveness, new legs and eyes for old – it didn’t matter to him. And it wasn’t just the decent people either. There was this woman next to me in the crowd – you could smell her before you saw her. All heady perfume, with bangles and braided hair. No problems guessing why she was in the crowd – all those men with money to spend. But she just looked at me, craned her neck to look out for him and said softly, ‘thank God he’s here’. And sure enough, there he was. An ordinary man on a borrowed donkey. Was that really him? No time to wonder about that. Just then, the place erupted. Some rushed forward to throw their cloaks on the ground. Others took the branches they had in their hands, the special ones they’d bought for the festival. They threw them down as well. Or waved them above their heads. And then the singing started down the other end of the street. A temple song – right out here in the bazaar. ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the king! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!’ Of course, we all knew the words, sang it every year on the way up to the temple. But not as if we meant it. Right now, we couldn’t help singing it. Everybody filled their lungs and half-shouted, half-sang it until their throats were raw – well, almost everybody, anyway.

The voice of a disciple
Whatever were they doing? Oh, it was good to see them happy, of course it was. We’d had some pretty rough receptions with Jesus along the way, believe you me. Sometimes we were hounded out of villages. Once they even tried to kill him – right on his own doorstep. Other times they would beg him to stay, and he would tell them gently that others needed him too. But this was completely unexpected. We were scared stiff of coming to Jerusalem. It was like – well, waving a red rag in front of a bull. He’d upset the authorities enough out in the sticks. So, coming here was madness – and I told him so. Still, I couldn’t leave him, could I? Would you? So, I thought we’d come in quietly, just us with him on the donkey. Next thing I know, the street is packed. The crowd are going wild. The donkey is missing its footing for branches and cloaks and all sorts. And to crown it all, they start singing. Hundreds of them joining their rough voices in one great song. ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ What did they have to go and sing that for? The sound bounced around the narrow street, echoing off the walls and houses, doubling the sound. Goodness knows what the Pharisees would think.

The voice of a Pharisee
I’ll tell you what this Pharisee thought, Thomas. I thought it was the end. When a man turns water into wine, when a man brings children back from the grave, when he starts to forgive prostitutes and accept homage, when he speaks with the authority of heaven in the language of the marketplace, when he calls God ‘Father’ and sounds as if he means it – it’s the end. The waiting is over, the promises are kept. And people like me aren’t needed any more. So what did I do? I signed his death warrant, of course.

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