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Palm Sunday


Palm Sunday is a festival celebrated by Christians around the world. Jesus went to Jerusalem; that much is certain. The details are less clear. The story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at the time of Passover is found first in Mark, and inasmuch as Luke and Matthew used Mark, it is found in them as well. The gospel of John also relates the story, although the sequence there is somewhat different. In the synoptic gospels, Jesus, according to some prearranged plan, coordinates the event, sending his disciples into the city to get a donkey for Jesus to ride. In John, there is no such plan; Jesus just finds a donkey. John has Jesus go to Jerusalem on two different occasions, the synoptics only once.

The big question is: what kind of reception did Jesus get? The answer to that depends on how well-known he was before the entry. Most of his activity was limited to Galilee, in the north, mainly a rural area with villages and hamlets. His trip to Jerusalem was likely his first venture into a big city, although some scholars believe that he worked as a day laborer in Sepphoris, a rich and cosmopolitan city near Nazareth.

The population of Jerusalem at Passover swelled from about 50,000 to perhaps as many as 300,000. The pilgrims were celebrating the God-driven Exodus from Egyptian slavery, and no doubt saw parallels with their subjugation by the Romans. Included among these pilgrims were no doubt those who either claimed to be or were looking for a Messiah. That savior would come, not on a donkey, the sign of peace, but on a horse, and ready for combat. It is not clear how many would see or pay attention to Jesus and his entourage, a small group among others.


Dr. Carl Krieg received his BA from Dartmouth College, MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in NYC, and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the author of What to Believe? the Questions of Christian Faith,   The Void and the Vision and  The New Matrix: How the World We Live In Impacts Our Thinking About Self and God. As professor and pastor, Dr. Krieg has taught innumerable classes and led many discussion groups. He lives with his wife Margaret in Norwich, VT.

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