The Palms: The Journey into Jerusalem: A Christian Perspective

The Palms:  The Journey into Jerusalem: A Christian Perspective
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Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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What is it with this parade of palms? It’s such an odd anomaly in Jesus’ journey. Matthew 21.1-11

For one, it’s a fulfilment of prophecy — with details provided by Zechariah.
‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to
you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.’

There is a certain oddness of riding both a donkey and a colt — it does give one pause to imagine how Jesus might have managed that. But apart from that, the message is that Jesus is going to fulfill the prophecy: he will enter Jerusalem humbly, in peace, not as a powerful military king bound on revolution. And he will be greeted:

  • with palm branches — a connection with Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles, reminding the people of the journey out of the wilderness –waving him on
  • and with cloaks laid before him as a sign of honour.

And the end of the story people claim Jesus as a prophet.

He is received as a king who will turn things upside down. And the turmoil of a city that erupted into hosannas would come to the attention of the authorities.

As he rides into Jerusalem, the Palm Sunday parade is like the final review that teachers give before the exam. Jesus gives the crowds the opportunity to get it right before it really counts. Do they understand all that his teachings and healings and miraculous feedings mean? That he is the Messiah, but not what they expect? That he rides a donkey because he isn’t going to conquer the oppressors like a military king by destroying the opposition, but humbly will bring peace and justice?

Why do we start Holy Week with this particular event? The marking of Holy Week and the rituals that surround it may go back to the late third century, so it has been important to Christians for most of our history.

Jesus experiences all of human experience — while the pain of Good Friday is his, so is the joy of Palm Sunday.

Today is an entryway for each of us as we seek to walk the week of Holy Week with Jesus. We experience what Jesus experienced, and in doing so, we express all of the complexity of our faith. We start with the confidence of the people of Israel who think they know who Jesus is and what he will do for them; we will face confusion, doubt, fear, remorse, exhaustion, horror, grief, and finally relief and unspeakable joy on this walk of faith.

One day, we are crying to God, “save us,” the next we are turning our backs on God and walking away. Despite our fickle nature, God is steadfast in loving us and constant in forgiving us


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