Palm Sunday in Bethphage

Palm Sunday is coming up this Sunday.  It is the beginning of Holy Week, the holiest week that the church celebrates throughout the church year.  Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to begin His work that He came on earth to fulfill: redeeming mankind.  Palm Sunday was a triumphant day for Jesus; He entered through the Mercy gate, and He was still the hero, the Messiah.  Crowds were cheering him, laying down their coats and palm branches for his donkey to walk over.  He would bring in Israel’s kingdom and rid them of the oppressor.  Jesus definitely did do that, but not in the way that the Israelites expected.   Instead, by the end of the week, He was hanging from a cross.  Very few stayed around to see that: some Roman guards, John the disciple, Jesus’ mother, Mary Magdalene, and some other women.  Not the ending for their hero that the crowd expected.  Yet on Easter, it turned out to be something much better than they could have imagined.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”  Matthew 21:1-11

On our Holy Land pilgrimage in December 2014, we stopped at Bethphage, where Jesus’ disciples got the colt.  Nowadays, Bethphage is part of the West Bank, close to Jerusalem.  Back in Jesus’ time, I’ve read it was about the length that one could walk to or from the old city before the sun went down on the Sabbath.  There is a Franciscan Catholic church in Bethphage commemorating Palm Sunday.  At first when we arrived, a church service was going on in the church, so we went around back and had our devotion outside.  Later after the service was over, some were able to go into the church.  My son wasn’t feeling that well (got a bad cold on the flight over), so I stayed in the bus with him, but my husband and daughter got some pictures.

Mural of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary–Bethany is not far away
The altar at Bethphage
Mural of Jesus riding the donkey into Jerusalem
Identified by the Crusaders as the stone Jesus used to stand on to mount the donkey.
Statue of Jesus riding the donkey in the back courtyard of the church
Took this picture while sitting in the bus. Unfortunately not an uncommon scene in the West Bank: garbage everywhere, and feral cats going in and out of the dumpster. In the background is an armored vehicle.
graffiti on the wall in the West Bank near Bethphage



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