I never thought of our Palm Sunday processions in terms of a great misunderstanding. As I was mind-walking about Palm Sunday, a former colleague sent me a joke making the rounds of the internet. Here is the version I received.
The second text message
The first message
Hi, Morris. This is Saul, next door. I’ve been riddled with guilt for a few months and have been trying to get up the courage to tell you face-to-face. When you’re not around, I’ve been sharing your wife, day and night, probably much more than you. I haven’t been getting it at home recently… I can’t live with the guilt & hope you’ll accept my sincere apology and forgive me.
Please suggest a fee for usage and I’ll pay you.
Morris,immediaately feeling enraged and betrayed, grabbed his gun, went next door, and shot Saul dead. He returned home, shot his wife, poured himself a stiff drink and sat down on the sofa. Morris then looked at his phone and discovered a second text message from Saul.
The second test message
Hi, Morris. Saul here again. Sorry about the typo on my last text. I assume you figured it out and noticed that the darned Spell-Check had changed “wi-fi” to “wife.” Technology, huh? It’ll be the death of us all.
Certainly, a case of jumping to conclusions!!
The greatest misunderstanding
Today, many misunderstand Jesus!
- Some think he was a good teacher, man, or even a prophet.
- Others believe that Jesus takes away all our problems when we follow him.
- While others believe Jesus only hears and answers prayer when he gives us what we ask for.
- Still others believe the cross and talk of the resurrection are foolish.
Misunderstanding Jesus is nothing new.
Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is the misunderstanding of all misunderstandings!
They saw the miracles he had done. People assumed he was a king like other kings. He would use his power and might to restore Israel as an independent nation. So, they spread out the red carpet as they might have for a King. They did not understand who he was!
Who could blame them?
One of their favorite songs…
“Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power, praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing…” Psalm 150:1-6
A beautiful song, but …their vision was not big enough!
Jesus, the King of Kings, came to deliver all from a life of self-centeredness, not to deliver Israel from the Romans.
He told all who would listen who they were. They were sons and daughters of a God who first loved them! There was no need to earn God’s love… in fact, we could never “earn” God’s love. “God has first loved us!” He asked them to rejoice in God’s love… and live as loving sisters and brothers, imitating the God who loved them so much.
They missed his heart for those who failed to believe in Him – No wonder Jesus, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.”
Are we much different than the people waving the branches of our self-centeredness?
How different are we?
- Do we wave the palm branches of our self-seeking prayers “give us this day our daily bread” (or whatever it is we want)?
- Or do we believe and live as sisters and brothers who, forgiven our trespasses, forgive the trespasses of those who trespass against us.
Click below for an early version of this Vincentian Mindwalk
Pardon my distraction.
The image you chose seems to reflect more confusion than praise. None of those in the background have their hands raised or palm branches extended, yet they still look on after Jesus has passed. At least two people in the foreground have a more pensive outlook rather than one of exuberance. Probably due to the limitations of the artist’s palette, the palm branches look gray rather than that greenish yellow we’re used to seeing. And, unlike so many religious paintings, Jesus does not have that aura/halo around him. His facial expression seems to echo your sentiment, “they don’t know what they’re doing.”
I take seriously the role the Church has assigned those of us in the pews for the reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. I am very mindful of the fact that I too would likely have been jeering as the events unfold and my “Crucify ‘im” is often much louder than those around me. The language of the Gospels/Liturgy is often stuffier than everyday conversation. So, the ‘h’ in “him” seems out of place coming from an exasperated crowd. [Similarly, “Let’s pray” seem much more inviting than “Let us pray.”]
As you point out, the situation is clearly a misunderstanding about what was going on, but with seeming well-founded intentions. With my wife’s condition, so often kind-hearted folks have offered things that frankly are not helpful or even detrimental. Still, as I often end up discarding what was brought, I try to remind myself that their hearts “were in the right place” even if they may not have been in the broader view.
My life lesson has been to observe what seems to be important to others and to confirm that with conversation. The Gospels contain some dialogue between Jesus and those who hear his message, but very few get the confirmation, “greater faith than does not exist in all of Israel.” I imagine that preachers leave the pulpit wondering if the message got through and a few parishioners come up to acknowledge same afterward, but the overwhelming majority say nothing. Did they get the message, or was it so hard a message that it went untried and then forgotten?
Father, forgive me when I don’t understand and when I don’t pay enough attention to know that I don’t understand. Amen.