Mt 26:14-27:66 or 27:11-54.
There it was the Palm Sunday celebration. My friend Alice and I head off to Sunday’s celebration. I got let off at the place where the procession was going to begin outside, and Alice parks her car. I kept looking at the back of the crowd gathered for my friend, but she was no where in sight. Once in church I look and see her in a side pew of the church, she appears from a distance to be upset. When I finally got to the pew, I asked if something is wrong and she tells me that she fell and thinks she may have broken her wrist.
She had been looking forward to the beginning of Holy Week services and didn’t want to miss the Palm Sunday Eucharist; however, she was in a lot of pain, so I drove her home. I find out later that two of the people involved in celebration could see that she was hurt, but did nothing. One of the folks even asked, “Are you alright?” When she answered, “No,” the person turned away and continued to hand out palms.
I found this whole experience very disturbing. I have asked myself this week, “What was going on inside those two people that Palm Sunday turned into aspects of the Good Samaritan story?” What happens to us in crowds or when we have “official roles” at a church function?
During Holy Week we hear about people in two different crowd gatherings, the first being Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on the ass where he is hailed as the “Messiah,” and the other where the crowd calls out for his death. The messages toward the same man were so different in nature. My friend Alice and I had talked about these two crowds before going to the Palm Sunday celebration. Alice stated that she thought that two crowds consisted of two different groups of people. “Why,” said she, “would it need to be the same people?”
Alice then talked about the two different groups that would gather at the prison when someone was to be executed. “One crowd,” she said, “consisted of those who came to see the criminal punished. And the other crowd would come to pray for all involved in this story, in any way. “Why,” asked Alice, “would it not be the same at the time of Jesus?” As for me, I had always assumed it was the same people in both crowds caught up in the excitement of the moment.
Perhaps there is something to be said about crowds and their power to influence our behavior on a given day. I think the man who was directing people to go to the gathering place across the street and not the church was focused on that…nothing else. The woman handing out palms may not have known what to do with Alice’s need and her job of handing out psalms. Two people doing their jobs for the big picture and missing the needs of one in front of them…
I am disenchanted with their response to Alice. At the same time, the question that haunts me is, “Where was their focus?” During this Holy Week, we will read and hear about moments of incredible unity among Jesus and His followers and moments of abandonment and suffering. Throughout those highs and lows there will be friends and foes gathered around Jesus. As we listen once again to those stories, the question is there for us to consider, “Where is our focus? Will we follow the example of the women who followed Jesus? Will we be the two men on the crosses next to Jesus? Will we be Judas or Peter? Or might we venture into the experience seeing ourselves in aspects of both the saints and the sinners? When Easter morning arrives, where will our focus be when the rock is no longer in front of the tomb?