This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. It is the day Christians celebrate the story of Christ’s triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem in the days leading up to the observance of the Jewish Passover and the fascinating recounting of the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord in the year 33 AD. It is indeed a triumphant entry, complete with a large crowd of Christ’s followers shouting "Hosanna in the highest" (giving the highest praise to God) and laying palm branches on the ground in front of him as he rode along on the back of a donkey. This is another one of those times when I wish I were there in order to observe first-hand this awesome spectacle. How many followers were there? How loud were they? How many non-believers were there and what were they thinking? We’ve all heard this Gospel story. The tide turns and in just a couple of days, the crowds were yelling “Crucify him.” And then this latter crowd wins out. Christ is crucified. What happened?
Let’s look at the “How many …?” questions posed above. I’ve researched this and found that the apparent prevailing opinion among the historians is that there were between 300,000 and 500,000 people in Jerusalem and the surrounding territory for the Passover. My reaction was one of extreme disbelief. How could there be that many people in one place at one time back in the first century? And how many believers? The largest crowd of the followers of Jesus I’ve ever seen mentioned in the Scriptures was a crowd of 5,000, which was at the multiplication of the loaves and fish. I’m thinking that the believers were outnumbered by as much as one hundred to one at the Passover. It would seem that the Scribes and the Pharisees probably didn’t have to work very hard to incite a fairly large crowd to oppose the believers! But all is well that ends well. Yes, Christ was crucified, but the gates of heaven were opened; he rose from the dead as he had promised; and his church lives on 2000 years later.
I’ve had just one other Thursday Thought today. Where did 500,000 people spend the night? I’m currently reading the classic book “The Day Christ Died” by Jim Bishop. He speculates early-on in the book that the countryside around Jerusalem was covered with tents that week. Where did all the tents come from? Well, Saul of Tarsus was a tentmaker, was he not? And St. Peter was a fisherman. Besides perhaps shepherding, wheat farming and wine making, I’m thinking that those two occupations were very lucrative, especially around the time of the Passover.
My prayer today: Dear Lord, help me to carry my cross without complaining as you did all those years ago on the road to Calvary. Amen.