The other day when I wrote my blog it was as part of preparation for today’s sermon. I thought I would post some of what came from that beginning today…
Are you a royal watcher? There is an exciting week coming up for people who follow the lives and activities of the British royal family. There are many websites devoted exclusively to the upcoming wedding of Prince William and his fiancée Kate Middleton. At 4 AM Atlantic Time on April 29th people like my sister-in-law will be awake watching their TV sets to see full coverage of this bit of history being made. They will be watching the “pregame show” and then Kate arriving at the church in a car and Lady Catherine and her husband driving away in a glass coach. The red carpet will be out for all the dignitaries who will be at the wedding, most notably Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Crowds will have gathered along the route from the palace to the church as much as 24 hours in advance in hopes of getting a glimpse of the royals and their guests.
Today is Palm Sunday and we are looking at another big day, a procession of an important person and people all lined up to catch a glimpse. The story that begins Matthew’s account of the passion story serves the purpose of showing Jesus’ royal status publicly.
First, palm branches were a symbol of triumph and victory to the Jewish people for instance, in Leviticus 23, they were instructed to celebrate the triumph of God bringing the people out of Egypt with branches of palm and leafy willow. It was a custom in the Middle East to cover up the paths of people worthy of the highest honour. In 2 Kings 9:13 (dated in approximately 830 BCE) when Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, was declared king, the people spread their coats on the ground in front of him. This may have been a precursor to the red carpet which at one time was rolled out only for heads of state though now this extends to include famous people of almost any sort. “The earliest known reference to walking a red carpet in literature is in the play Agamemnon by Aeschylus, written in 458 BC. In this story Agamemnon’s wife has servants spread out a “crimson path” for him to walk over when he returns from Troy. He is reluctant due to “knowing that only gods walk on such luxury…”
The main connections between the Old Testament and Palm Sunday come from Zechariah 9:9 which is quoted in Matthew 21:5 where it prophesies, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. and Psalm 118 which we read today, from which came the words people were chanting, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” and another mention of laying down branches, “Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.”