Each of these studies can be as long or as short as you desire them to be. There will be plenty of links to videos, art and articles for further study that are completely optional. You may decide to come back and look at some these later as well. Also if you could take time to post a comment when you are finished I would appreciate that. It allows me to know how many people are using this study as well as to hear what insights you are taking away from it. "
All artwork in this series is the work of John August Swanson (1938-). You can click on the artwork to the left and read more of what the artist has to say about his own work. This piece is "Entry into the City" ©2012 by John Swanson August. Giclee 36” by 48”.
You may wish to begin your study by setting this time apart from the rest of today. You could do this with silence, with prayer, or perhaps with music. If you would like to use music, one of the following could be used:
In the Episcopal Church and many other Christian Churches, we hear the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday--the first day of Holy Week. Each year we hear a different Gospel account. This year we hear Mark's (or alternately John's) account, next year Luke, and last year was Matthew. Regardless of the year, we hear this story during the first half of the liturgy as we prepare to carry palms and, weather permitting, process into the Church singing "All Glory Laud and Honor" or perhaps "Ride On, Ride on in Majesty." If you wish to see some examples of what a Palm Sunday procession looks like, here are few from various Episcopal Churches: Example #1, Example #2 and Example #3.
Special processions, like the one for Palm Sunday occur at other times as well. There is a procession during the Great Litany (video), the procession of Candidates for Baptism to the font (video), the Cortege at a funeral (video), and the Procession of the Paschal Candle during the Great Vigil of Easter (video) to name a few. What these all have in common is a ritualized movement from one place to another emphasizing our relationship with God.
Question to consider: As you think about or watch these videos of liturgical processions, what do they say to you about a Christian's relationship to God the Father, God the Son, and/or God the Holy Spirit?
To close out this part of the study, let us remind ourselves that the Palm Sunday procession (or any other liturgical act) is not an reenactment. We are not pretending to be in 1st century Jerusalem at the time of Caesar's reign. Instead we carry branches to symbolize the victory of Jesus the Messiah knowing full well the power of the cross and the empty tomb. This procession is a public statement of faith by God's people proclaiming to the world that Christ has conquered sin and death and brings hope to the world. In this procession, and other liturgical processions, we are claiming our baptismal identity as a pilgrim people called to serve Christ and God's people.
As noted above, the account of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is told in all four Gospels. This opens up for us an opportunity to study what are called gospel parallels. If you are interested, you can see a comprehensive list of the gospel parallels here.
This might be your first time thinking about or encountering the same story of Jesus told by different Gospel writers. I suggest that you read/listen to Mark's account first. Pay particular attention the details and order of events. If it helps, think of yourself as a detective getting "just the facts." Be careful that you don't put things in that you expect to be there.
Once you have a handle on Mark's account, read/listen to one of the other accounts (Matthew, Luke, or John). Again pay attention to details. What details match up with Mark? Are there things missing? Are there additional details that were not present in Mark? If you want, you may to read/hear a third or all four accounts. That is up to you.
Here are the links to the four accounts. Again, start with Mark and then move on to one (or more) of the other Gospels. The links below will show two versions together which may be helpful to you. Of you course you may prefer to you use a bible instead of reading online. If you choose to hear the audio, you will be hearing full chapters so make sure you are listening for when the entry to Jerusalem begins and ends.
- Mark 11:1-11 and Luke 19:28-40 (texts or audio of Mark and Luke)
- Mark 11:1-11 and Matthew 21:1-11 (texts or audio of Mark and Matthew)
- Mark 11:1-11 and John 12:12-19 (texts or audio of Mark and John)
Question to consider: Do you find the two or more accounts relatively the same or significantly different? Why or why not? What might account for the differences you encountered? If a person came to you and said that since the Bible has two different accounts of the same event they don't believe the Bible is true, what would you say?
***If this study raises questions for you that you wish to talk to me about, email or contact me in some other way and I will make time to discuss them with you.***
I would like to end this section with a few thoughts for you--the first being how I reconcile the Bible having different accounts of the same story. I like to think of it like this: Pretend a beloved grandmother had four grandchildren and you went to each of them individually to ask them to tell you about her. Likely they would tell you different stories about her but perhaps there would also be some common stories. However, since they each experienced the actual events differently, they way they talk about the stories will differ in sometimes significant ways.
This fact does not make their grandmother a fictional character nor does it mean they are making up stories about her. What it does mean is they are sharing with you a retelling of events with their grandmother in a way that helps you understand why she is beloved to them. The same is true for me of the gospel writers. They are sharing with us the experience of Jesus not as a news reporters or historians but as people whose lives were touched and transformed by Christ.
If you want to learn or think about this idea more, I encourage to visit "The Story of the Storytellers” section of the PBS Frontline special From Jesus to Christ: the first Christians. In particular, you may wish to read An Introduction to the Gospels.
We will now spend some time with "Entry Into the City" by John August Swanson shown above (click here to see a larger version). You have spent some time reading/listening to the text and using your imagination to interact with the narrative, now it is time to engage your vision.
- The artist says that when he was painting this story, he thought of the civil-rights movement in the United States. This led him to add Roman soldiers and vicious dogs to the painting. When you bring these two events into dialog with each other, what initially comes to your mind?
- Perhaps you remember or have heard about the Children's Crusade of 1963 that was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights movement. It was here that police used fire hoses and dogs against black youth peacefully protesting in public. Regardless if you have or not, take four minutes to watch this short video about it thinking about Jesus entry into Jerusalem. What comes to mind?
- If you were to draw parallels between Jesus entry into Jerusalem with a contemporary event, what would you choose and why?