Today is the first day of Holy Week, when we remember the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. Today is called Palm Sunday because on that day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while his followers waved palm branches in celebration and sang praises to God. It was a demonstration of Jesus’ claim to be a new kind of peaceful leader and it upset the people who were leading the Jewish nation at the time.
The next day Jesus upset the Jewish leaders again by causing a disturbance in the Temple but he spent most of the week quietly teaching the crowds, until Thursday evening when Jesus and his disciples shared a special meal. This was the Passover meal, when Jewish people celebrate their escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. But Jesus changed the meaning of this meal for his followers when he picked up a piece of bread, broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, broken for you.’ Then he picked up the wine cup and said, ‘This is my blood poured out for you. Whenever you do this I will be with you, until I come back as king over the whole universe.’
After this Jesus and his friends went to a little park called The Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus liked to go to pray. But one of his friends, Judas, betrayed him to the Temple police, who came to the garden and arrested him there.
After a hasty trial Jesus was condemned to death for blasphemy, that is for insulting God. And on the following day, Good Friday, he was executed by being nailed to a cross and hung up in the hot sun. Heart failure and exhaustion would have killed him.
Two bandits were crucified on either side of Jesus, and a sign was sign was fastened to the top of his cross. It read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’ It was meant to be a sick joke and, to make it still more unkind, a crown mad eof sharp thorns was rammed onto his head by the soldiers who were guarding him.
But this cruel joke rebounded on the people who killed Jesus because, on Easter Day his tomb, which had been given to him by one of his wealthy followers, was found mysteriously empty. And his friends, who had run away in confusion when he was arrested, began to say that he was with them again, alive in a new way. So maybe he was a king, and maybe he didn’t insult God after all. Maybe it was the people who killed him who were in the wrong.
We believe that there is a nasty side to all of us which would be just as happy as the Jewish leaders were at the time to see Jesus dead and gone for ever. Because the selfish, dark side of our nature feels uncomfortable with Jesus, and doesn’t want to be challenged or changed by him. But we believe that Jesus allowed himself to be killed so that he could overcome this nasty side of human nature. For, even after it had done its worst to him, he came back to life with his power increased and not destroyed. And he now wants to live in us, and to get rid of the bad side of our character, so that we may begin a new life in him and become God’s friends, or children even, forever.