A donkey walked slowly under the stone archway of the city gate. Head bowed, ignoring the jostling crowd, he carried a man onwards through the throng and into the town.
I was in that crowd and followed the patient animal and its rider for several hours, pausing with them in a shopping mall, the market square, outside the council offices, by a hotel, in a green open space. Passers-by stared in curiosity, others carried on shopping – indifferent to the action on the road, some joined the procession, others tut-tutted at the commotion.
The first Palm Sunday was a day of hoorays and hosannas as many welcomed Jesus as the Messiah – the new king come to save. Some people doubted his credentials, others were outraged by his claims. This day would be the beginning of a dramatic week which included the hailed king acting as a servant and washing his friends’ feet, sharing supper with them, being betrayed, arrested and eventually crucified.
The story of the first Holy Week may be familiar. Let’s not ever become blasé about it. It had world-changing results. The major pageant, of which I was a part, happened a few years ago. I was moved – in every sense – as I followed Jesus through the city. I watched familiar faces acting viciously as Roman soldiers, saw Pilate wash his hands, viewed Jesus being strung up on the cross. Moving, indeed. And to all those who have witnessed the action, whether 2000 years ago, or by watching re-enactments, or by simply reflecting, what has been the lasting impact..? When I went for an early countryside walk this morning and met nobody else, I wondered whether Jesus would have gone through all those events if I was the only person in the world. I believe he would.