The Day When a King Was Welcomed With Garments, Tree Branches and Songs

April 9, 2017

Today is Palm Sunday which is celebrated by the Christian world.  The beautifully crafted Gospel of John relates the story in chapter 12.

What happened that day between Bethany and Jerusalem has been commented on by thousands as well as debated by thousands for the last 20 centuries.  It must have been a glorious event as the crowds lay their garments and palm branches on the road.  Raising their voices in song added to the spectacular.

“Hosanna!
    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,
    even the king of Israel!”  John 12:13 Lexham English Bible (LEB)

The Romans watched suspiciously and wondered if the zealots or freedom fighters were making a play.  The religious leaders from the Temple were bewildered and wondered if their power base was slipping away as the people were embracing this miracle worker and singing the coronation psalm of the Davidic line.  See Psalms 24 and 118

The Gentiles or Greeks were amazed.  They had heard of this Teacher of Peace who could cure the sick and raise the dead, especially as Lazarus, who had been raised earlier, was leading the procession from his home in Bethany to the great city.

The people believed in the Messiah, the promised Deliverer like Moses of old, who would cast off the shackles of Roman rule and restore the Davidic kingdom of David and Solomon.  They were immersed in their apocalyptic history and prophecy of a coming King to restore Jerusalem as the queen of kingdoms.

However, the young man on the donkey that day had come to proclaim the kingdom of God which transcended the human world and would be realized in the new spiritual world to come.  He rode a donkey not a majestic horse.

Unfortunately, no one understood that meaning in the teachings until much later, after the destruction of the Temple and the fall of Jerusalem.  With the Temple and Jerusalem, the city of David, gone, the connection to the past and the cultural heritage of the people was lost just as their progenitors had sung centuries before on the alien rivers of Babylon:

 “By the rivers of Babylon,
  there we sat, yes, we wept,
  when we remembered Zion.
   On the willows in her midst,
  we hung up our lyres.”  Psalm 137 LEB

The kingdom of God was not an earthly domain but totally spiritual, not confined to this planet traversing the cosmos. One could sense the sadness of these words for a people who had lost everything once again.

Coming down through the centuries, around 1820, when he was thirty, Anglican minister Henry Hart Milman wrote the following song about that eventful Sunday:

 

Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes hosanna cry.
0 Savior meek, pursue Thy road,
With palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
0 Christ, Thy triumphs now begin
O’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
The angel armies of the sky
Look down with sad and wondering eyes
To see the approaching Sacrifice.

Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
The Father on His sapphire throne
Expects His own anointed Son.

Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die. 
Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain.
Then take, 0 Christ, Thy power and reign.

 

Regardless of one’s belief in these texts of so long ago, the beauty of the imagery still speak to millions today.  Life takes on the renewal of Spring flourishing all around—that there is hope after a long winter of the storms of loss and disappointment.

 

G. D. Williams © 2017

POST 712

Henry Hart Milman (1791-1868) was an Anglican minister and a newly appointed professor of poetry at Oxford University, England, when he wrote this Palm Sunday text at age thirty.  It was published by his friend, Reginald Heber, six years later in a hymnbook organized by the church year.

Henry H. Milman, an English scholar and priest, rose to positions of prominence in the Anglican Church, finally serving as dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  After writing plays in his early years, he concentrated on historical work, including History of the Jews (1862), which drew loud criticism.

http://www.firstcongmadison.org/hymn-notes/hymn-215-ride-ride-majesty

The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn #162
Text: Matt.21:9
Author: Henry H. Milman, 1827, alt.
Tune: ÒWinchester NewÓ
1st Published in: _Musikalisches Handbuch_Ó
Town: Hamburg, 1690

Ride On ! Ride On In Majesty – King’s College, Cambridge

The choir of King’s College, Cambridge sing the Easter hymn, Ride On ! Ride On In Majesty. The choir are joined by the congregation of which there seems very few. The trebles sing a verse on their own as do the gentlemen before the trebles soar to a lovely descant during the final verse.

 

 

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