How can we have a Pandemic Passion? The word “passion” often conjures romantic allusions or designates ardent desire so it may be surprising to learn that the root of the word “passion” is suffering. Passion Sunday is the first day of Holy Week when we mark the bloodstained footsteps of Jesus towards the Cross.
Passion Sunday is also called Palm Sunday to remind us of the palm-waving crowd welcoming Jesus as he entered the city. Palms symbolized happiness and victory, so the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is often called “The Triumphal Entry.”
Some scholars believe that the welcoming crowd may have been villagers who accompanied Jesus all the way along his journey and therefore was a different crowd from the rabble of local urban haters who were incited to yell “Crucify him” later in the week.
Before COVID restrictions limited people’s movements and gatherings, there were re-enactments of that triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago, our Christian Education board would have a Palm Saturday rally where thousands of children would gather for a day of celebrations, praise, prayer and reflection on what the life of Jesus means for us. It was an exuberant day of inspiration!
Shall such days ever return? We wonder. Shall we ever again exhaust ourselves by walking along a route with a large group in chanting and chattering camaraderie? Shall we feel the crush of a crowd again? Perhaps these are good questions to ask ourselves as we think about how Jesus entered the city with a crowd but sought solace in solitude with God.
The enemies of Jesus were incensed by the acclamation he received so they embarked on a plot to isolate Jesus so that could wrest him away for a sham trial and torture. Jesus Christ is unfazed and unchanged by the cheering, but those who disliked him fed their fury with the fuel of what they saw as the popularity of this interloper from Nazareth.
Do we crave the adulation of an audience? We live in a society whose trends are spread by influencers. We live on a planet where nations vie not only for military supremacy but also for the soft power of dominating hearts and minds.
Jesus Christ gently offers us a strange contradiction to our way of understanding life.
Whether he is riding a donkey or derided and scourged, he is the same. Whether he is applauded as he enters the city or beaten as he carries his cross outside the city, he is the same.
Passion Sunday offers us the timeless lesson that in the vicissitudes of wildly unpredictable circumstances, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, and is with us always.
St. Andrew’s Theological College
Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago
Adrian attended universities in Trinidad, Canada, the USA, Israel, and England, and embarked on vocations in the Church as well as in law, government, commerce, and education.
Among awards he has received are several scholarships and Enterprise Teacher awards in England as well as the Gold Medal for first place at Knox College in the University of Toronto. He has taught at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels.
He is a Barrister of England and Wales and an attorney of Trinidad and Tobago.