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Full Text

“Who is this?”  The whole city was stirred. What were they expecting from the man who touched lepers, who put mud on the eyes of the blind, who fed the hungry? What were they expecting from man who spent time with tax collectors and sinners, the despised and the marginalised. The one who welcomed the excluded, laughed with the children, and raised the dead to life – what were they expecting?

Who is this? I wonder did the respectable expect respectability, did the religious expect piety? did the wealthy expect respect? Did the educated expect debate? Did the trend setters expect cool?

Who is this? What kind of a man… what kind of a God.. rides a donkey instead of a stallion, I mean it is a bit like the queen arriving at the local car boot sale in an old Nissan micra!  is welcomed by a crowd of the ragged rather than the elite. Here is no sword waving, good looking hero, here instead is a guy, on a donkey, surrounded by a bunch of people waving palm branches while everyone else looked at each other and said “what on earth… who is this?”

Christians call the week that stretches between now and Easter Sunday ‘Holy week’ it is the week within which Jesus swaps a donkey for a cross, palm branches for cruel whips, the sun on his face for a dank tomb, and then on Easter day, well let’s save that till then.

For today though the question that hangs in the air, tripping down the centuries is simply ‘Who is this, what kind of a God?’

For, what kind of a God allows corona Virus to stalk our world? Picking people off, beloved, precious people, one, by one, by ten, by a hundred by a thousand by a… Who is this God? Where is the magic cure, the easy answer, the miracle when we need one?

On the other hand could it be that the God-Man on a donkey who looked on the crowd with compassion does so to call us to look upon one another with compassion.

Could it be that the God-man who wept at the death of his friend calls us even now to weep at the deaths of those both known and unknown, to turn the media obsession with totals into a heart obsession with real people.

Could it be that the God-man who sat upon the ground and told stories to children urges us to be the story teller today, dropping words of hope into the deep pool of the human heart and watching the ripples spread to touch the life of another, and another and another.

Could it be that he rode a donkey in Jerusalem to say ‘I come not to control you but to be with you, I am not about my strength but your weakness. And so could it be that we too are called to the place of our own weakness and in touching it discover that God is already there?

For while there are no easy divine answers to the big ‘whys’ of pandemic or disaster there is a thought that wrestling with that Palm Sunday question brings to life. Perhaps when we are asking ‘what kind of God’, or who is this’  the quiet answer simply is “I am here, here to be with, with you, where you are, in the place of your weakness today”



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