This article is from Issue 62 of “On The Move,” a publication of new learning possibilities for churches, at one time published by The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand.
Although some ideas and liturgies may appear somewhat “dated” in style, concept, imagery or language, they may nevertheless offer a spring-board for new ideas among people who find themselves leading worship, perhaps in a new context, and with some trepidation.
Reproduced by permission. May be reprinted for use in local congregations only.
What will they say then?
a story for Palm Sunday with props
(Props: three brightly painted banners with slogans such as “Hosanna”; “Praise the Lord”; “Blessed is he…” etc. They should be raised on poles behind the speaker and should look similar to three crosses. The centre banner is reversed at the end of the story and reads “Crucify him” on the back.)
Two thousand years ago or thereabouts, a group of friends were sitting in the square of a little town called Bethphage near Jerusalem.
Usually when they met to talk they spoke only of things like how the olive crop had been that year and what the price was like. Sometimes in the cool of evening when they had more time to spare they would settle down under the oak tree and discuss the Scriptures.
It was comfortable there, surrounded by their homes… the rosy light of sunset on the whitewashed walls… the deep cool shadow under the tree… the murmur of voices.
But lately the discussion of Scripture had moved to mid-day and in the bright sun and the heat voices had often been raised … arguments had taken the place of discussion and little groups had broken up to talk amongst themselves.
It was an argument as old as Jerusalem itself. When would Messiah come? The prophets had been speaking of him for centuries … passing on the words that God had spoken to them … centuries it had been… but now the whole of the countryside was buzzing. Messiah, they said, had come.
Unbelievable … how could it be? Yacob couldnt imagine how it would happen. He believed in the Scripture, of course, and in what the prophets had said… but that was all safely locked up in a book, and so it was believable. But for Messiah to come today when he – Yacob – was alive and could see him… no… no, that was beyond belief. And Yacob said so to his friends.
But, said Hilkiah, but I have seen him… and he is Messiah, make no doubt. And Nathan … he has heard him speak such words. He tells of a kingdom that God himself will lead the Jewish nation will rule the world, Yacob, hear that.
I hear it… I hear it… said Yacob… I hear you too… but what can I see … I see Romans. What will your Messiah do to rid us of Romans?
But Yacob, the people are with him … the number of his followers grows every day. Its an army that chases him around the country and he couldnt get rid of them if he tried. You know they used to call him Rabbi… well now they call him Master… some even call him Lord.
Lord … the people are fools.
I know what it sounds like, said Matthan… but surely you have heard of the things he has done … how he fed thousands of people on the way to Passover… with just a few loaves and fish.
Yes, I heard… and all that that proves to me is the way stories grow in the telling.
But what about Lazarus? said Ephlal. Here is a man who died… and the Master brought him back from death. No ordinary man could do that … no man could do it at all. It could only be God working his miracles through the Master.
Rubbish! Miracles dont happen today. Miracles only happened during the time of the Scriptures. God performed them in those days because he had to… to make people believe in him.
But Yacob, said Ephlal, a miracle comes from God alone and you must know that Lazarus was dead and now he lives. That was a miracle and God worked it through the Master. These are new times, Yacob… God is working his miracles again because his Messiah has come.
You have it down nicely pat, dont you? said Yacob. But it all fits together too well for my liking… too neat… too much like it was all planned.
Take for instance Lazarus, who very conveniently died just before Passover when thousands of people have come from all over the world to worship at the Temple… Lazarus picks just then to die. They put him in a tomb… and days later along comes the Master. He stands in front of the tomb and calls out, “Wake up Lazarus”… or something… and whadda ya know… out comes Lazarus alive again. Very convenient I say… good publicity.
And Yacob would have said more, but one of the group – Ginath – had called out to some men who had just come into the square. They were strangers… probably here for the Passover. The whole countryside was flowing over with visitors.
One of them called back to Ginath, “What was that?” And Ginath replied, “Why are you untying my colt?” “The Master needs it”, they answered.
A silence came down on the sunlit square as the strangers led the colt away… its little hooves clip clopping importantly across the cobbles.
The group under the oak tree watched until the last figure had disappeared with a flap of his robe around the corner. Then Ginath turned and smiled. “The Master has need of my colt”… and they smiled back at him. “Lets go and see whats happening”, said one of them, and they all rose up and followed the strangers.
That was a day they wont forget in a hurry. The crowds had come out to meet Jesus as he road on Ginaths colt into Jerusalem. They sang and danced each side of him… they smiled and laughed their way towards the city.
People had gathered in little groups by the roadside, waiting for their saviour… tiptoeing in expectancy and craning their necks for a first view.
Others had heard about his coming and were running across the fields, hoping they werent too late and arriving breathless but bright-eyed and ready to sing and shout Hosanna.
Branches were picked from roadside trees and palm fronds brought in from the fields.
But then this crowd was suddenly swelled into a multitude as the people poured out along the road from Jerusalem… They brought music… pipes and flutes and triumphant horns drums and rattles and anything to make a noise.
They surrounded Jesus with a fierce and passionate joy they shouted Hosanna… they shouted that “blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord”… they shouted of peace in heaven and glory in the highest, and they blessed the kingdom that comes – the kingdom of David.
And so they poured down the road, around the Mount of Olives and into a full view of Jerusalem spread out opposite them on the slopes of its own hill. It was a city of palaces and they rose gloriously, one above the other. There was the Palace of the Maccabees, the Palace of the High Priest, the royal Palace of Herod and, crowning all the towers and battlements, there was the Temple, gleaming white and gold. The sight was magnificent… and Jesus stood and wept.
Shortly, the procession move on… but one man stayed behind… looking intently ahead while the stragglers passed him by. It was Yacob.
He stood for a while until the noise passed and the silence came back. Then he turned and walked briskly back to Bethphage… muttering as he went. I dont know how anybody could be taken in by him … even I could make a better show than that. He needs a proper horse and some weapons… who would ever believe that this man could conquer the Roman Empire? Hes going to fail them… I just know it.
“Hell stand up on the steps of the Temple and only have time to open his mouth once before the soldiers grab him. He wont be Master then. And lots of people are going to be sorry. Theyll find out the hard way. I wonder… what will they say then?”
(The reader reverses the central banner so that it now reads “Crucify him”)