Palm Sunday

MT 21:1-11; IS 50:4-7; PS 22; PHIL 2:6-11; MT 26:14-27:66

If you ever pay a visit to the Scottish National Gallery on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, you’ll quickly happen upon Raphael’s painting The Holy Family with a Palm Tree. It’s an idyllic depiction, with St Joseph making a floral offering to the Virgin Mary holding her rather cheery, rather chubby, newborn son.

And yet, there behind them stands the palm tree, casting a metaphorical shadow over the scene. It is a prophetic indication of what this babe was born for: the triumphal entry he would have into Jerusalem. The Passion and Cross would then follow.

And so we find that on Palm Sunday, Lent changes gear: we prepare to accompany Christ in triumph through the streets of Jerusalem; we prepare to accompany him through his Passion, to the Cross, into the tomb and on to new life. The normative purple of Lent gives way to scarlet red, indicating the supreme redemptive sacrifice Christ was entering the city to fulfil. And our guide this year is St Matthew.

“When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ ” (Matthew 21:10). The crowd enquired on behalf of all humanity with a question that every one of us, at some stage in our lives, has to give answer.

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