23 March 2024

Palm Sunday 2024: Let’s bring ourselves

Major Althea Bawden

A photo shows people worshiping with hands raised. A giant neon-style sign reading 'Jesus' is out of focus in the background.

Major Althea Bawden reflects on a worshipful response to the coming of the King.

I’m not old enough to remember the Beatles. However, I do like their music.

On 18 August 1964, the Beatles boarded a plane in London and flew to San Francisco to begin their first coast-to-coast tour of North America. The Fab Four expected to perform before more people over the 31 days than any other act in music history. What they didn’t expect was Beatlemania.

When the musicians arrived, they were greeted at the airport by 5,000 screaming fans. At their hotel they were greeted by 4,000 more. And that was just the beginning.

People worshipped the Beatles, even though they were just human beings and didn’t really deserve that kind of adoration. In the months that followed, they were confronted by mobs raging with excitement. At their concerts, the music was drowned out by screaming fans.

Everyone longs to worship something, to have a hero to look up to. That was true even in Jesus’ time. Mark 11 describes a worship scene that resembled Beatlemania – except Jesus deserved the praise.

If you had been in Jerusalem at the time, how would you have worshipped Jesus? How do you worship him today?

Derby Central Songsters were on an Easter tour in the USA in 2001, and we visited the Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centre in Washington to sing in the Palm Sunday morning service. There was an opportunity for people living at the centre to give their testimony, and there was no silence. The response was spontaneous, and people queued up to share.

They shared how Jesus had transformed their lives in the most glorious ways. Jesus had saved them from addiction to alcohol and drugs, from crime, and from sexual exploitation. There was not a dry eye as we wept tears of joy. I was privileged and humbled to hear them witness to God’s transforming love in their lives.

I can imagine them being part of the crowd in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, throwing their garments down on the dusty road and shouting: ‘Hosanna! Jesus saves us!’

Clothes give many of us confidence or a sense of identity. The garments that the people were wearing in the crowd were handmade, unique and precious to them, but they were prepared to throw them down to make a red carpet for Jesus. The pilgrims in Jerusalem believed he had come to save them and, when the crowd saw Jesus coming, they wanted to acknowledge that he was King.

In The Passion Translation we read: ‘Many people carpeted the road in front of him with their cloaks and prayer shawls, while others gathered palm branches and spread them before him’ (Mark 11:8).

The garment here is a tallit or a prayer shawl, a seamless garment with four corners, with a tassel attached to each of the four corners to remind the Jewish people of all the commands of God. On the collar, the Hebrew letters spell ‘Lord of Lords and King of Kings’ as a symbolic reminder of the promised Messiah.

By laying a tallit down, the people were acknowledging Jesus as God’s promised Messiah.

What would you throw down? What would you sacrifice?

As we journey into Holy Week, Jesus is asking us to sacrifice those things that have become precious to us. Jesus is asking us to sacrifice those habits we are not willing to change or give up.

The challenge is to continue with the good habits that we have developed this Lent – praying, reading our Bibles, spending less time on social media, spending more time with family and friends, showing kindness.

As we worship Christ as King, Jesus reveals to us the example of servanthood – suffering and self-giving. He points to the radical and countercultural nature of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Are you ready to not only spread your cloak on the road in front of Jesus – doing the showy and flamboyant thing – but also during trouble and adversity?

Written by

A photo of Althea Bawden.

Major Althea Bawden

Assistant Principal, William Booth College

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