It is a celebration, but Palm Sunday may be the most uncomfortable date in the Church calendar for what it tells us about ourselves, and that we do need telling.
It is an odd Sunday in the Church of England, with the vicar getting us all to wave branches – few palm-leaves in our leafy shires but anything from the garden will do – as an imitation of the adulation shown to Jesus as he rode humbly and as a king down to Jerusalem. The hymns, uplifting and triumphant (and if I stay silent in my pew it is not for any disapproval of the soaring hymns but that they insist on demanding a vocal range far outside what I can manage).
The triumphal procession down the Mount of Olives touches on many and various ideas, each mind bringing its own ideas into what must have been a clamorous event. Hobbes even used it as an illustration of sovereign authority:
the Kings word, is sufficient to take any thing from any subject, when there is need; and that the King is Judge of that need: For he himselfe, as King of the Jewes, commanded his Disciples to take the Asse, and Asses Colt to carry him into Jerusalem, saying, (Mat. 21. 2,3) “Go into the Village over against you, and you shall find a shee Asse tyed, and her Colt with her, unty them, and bring them to me. And if any man ask you, what you mean by it, Say the Lord hath need of them: And they will let them go.” They will not ask whether his necessity be a sufficient title; nor whether he be judge of that necessity; but acquiesce in the will of the Lord.
We can wave a branch from the garden in pale imitation of the excitement of that day, but what does it says of us that we should imitate those who cried ‘Hosanna’, knowing that the words turned within a week to ‘Crucify!’; and there is no separating the two, so the readings begin in triumph and end in torment. It would be comforting to believe the voices that said each were different, but looking about us and within us, we know they were not.
Anything about us and even the great affairs of state, the wars, the weeping, the justice and the peace, are petty compared with those days. They reflect us all the same. We are ready to raise up heroes and repose in them our hopes and trust to do what we have not done for ourselves to transform the kingdom or the world – but no man or woman in that place can please all his supporters’ expectations, and in Congreve’s words “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned”. Now for writers hailed as champions, or celebrities or politicians, being raised up is just the ready the beginning of a fall into being the subject of the worst execration from acolytes feeling betrayed.
If they could reject even the Son of God, who can stand? They did not crowd the hill slope to worship the revealed Christ but to press upon him their own expectations, each individual’s, as we seek to make God in our own image.
That he was saluted King when he entered into Jerusalem: That he fore-warned them to beware of all others that should pretend to be Christ: That he was taken, accused, and put to death, for saying, hee was King: That the cause of his condemnation written on the Crosse, was JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWES
- Tell us art thou he that should come to reign
- Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?
- Lost to translation
- Maddening the priests
- Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
- Human Consciousness of God in the Book of Job: A Theological and Psychological Commentary by Dr Jeffrey Boss
- Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job: How the Oldest Book in the Bible Answers Today’s Scientific Questions by Hugh Ross
- The Elements of Law Natural and Politic, Parts I & II by Thomas Hobbes
- Behemoth: The History of the Causes of the Civil Wars of England, and the Councils and Artifices by Which They Were Carried on from the Year 1640 to the Year 1660 by Thomas Hobbes
- Thomas Hobbes – Behemoth (Clarendon edition)
- By others:
- Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes by Timothy Raylor
- Thomas Hobbes: Political Ideas in Historical Context by J P Sommerville