The Easter holidays have started for many and that will probably mean some travelling to see family and friends or preparing to receive family and friends and enjoying some time together. I wonder … how do you prepare to receive visitors?
My mother would always have the house clean and the brasses shining .. she still tries to do so even now she’s 88. Jerusalem was getting ready to celebrate the Passover and the streets were heaving with people. They came from all over the known world, they still do, to remember and to celebrate and so every available space and room in the city would be taken and those in the outlying villages.
One census taken at the time recorded over 256,000 lambs sacrificed, and as the practice was for a lamb to represent up to 10 people that would put over 2 million people in Jerusalem. Quite a squeeze!
Into these overcrowded streets arrives Jesus. The story of him raising Lazarus from the dead has gone before him and he now has a large crowd walking with him from Bethany and another that comes out to greet him from Jerusalem. Two masses of people converge together like the tributaries of a mighty river. The noise must have been deafening; certainly, too loud to speak over and so Jesus ‘speaks’ through symbolism. The crowd welcome him as a conqueror yet Jesus rides through the city gates on the back of a Donkey. Any self-respecting ‘conqueror’ would ride in mounted on a large horse, but the conquering that Jesus has in mind is very different and is designed to last for eternity, not the short lived military gesture that may change things for a temporary period only, and so he arrives on a Donkey, a symbol of peace but a clear and deliberate claim that he is fulfilling an ancient prophecy that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem in just such a way.
And so, the crowd welcomed Jesus into their city. How might we welcome him into our homes I wonder? How welcome is Jesus beyond the front door? Do we keep him just for Sunday’s or is he spoken of regularly and with affection every day? Do we want to welcome him into our daily routine? Do we welcome Jesus when we gather to eat, when we have a big decision to make, when we’re celebrating good news or facing trouble?
Billions of Christians alive today can testify to the life changing power there is in welcoming Jesus into their lives. He makes a difference. Yet, within the week, the fickleness of human nature will be displayed despite Love’s last appeal to mankind.
We would do well to remember how easily we can sometimes be moved by the pressure of others to reject him, stay silent and keep the ‘door’ of welcome, well and truly closed.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale