Today is Palm Sunday. Catholics and many Protestants around the world will listen at the Procession with Palms to St. Luke’s account of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem, hearing how as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, people spread their cloaks on the road and “began to praise God aloud with joy.”
It is almost jarring to hear the crowds proclaim, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Jarring because we know the rest of the story. (And we listen to the entirety of the story during today’s Gospel.)
And since we know what will shortly follow that scene, we have to ask ourselves, how did the crowd turn so quickly from “Blessed is he” to “Crucify him”? How could the same people who waved palms praising God with joy, several days later clamor for Jesus’ death?
It is not just an interesting historical question. It is not just about those people on those two days. Don’t we really do the same? Oh, not scream “Crucify him.” But praise God in one moment and, by our words and deeds, reject him in the next.
As we come to the beginning of Holy Week, we might spend some time reflecting on the ways we are like the fickle crowds.
The question that lingers in the back of my mind is always “Was it the same people?” in both parts of the story. Or, was it a failure on both parts: the crowds that welcomed Jesus feared standing up for him. And those who wanted him out of the way, failed to prevent the joyful entry? Probably a bit of both: some of the same crowd, some who failed to stop the other.