“The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’”
Every pew was taken. Folks were standing in the aisle and perched on the windowsills of Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968. They were there to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preach. The words that evening still ring in America’s ears, not only for his storied eloquence but also for their haunting prescience of the following day:
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop… And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about a thing. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
In much the same way, a multitude had gathered in the streets of Jerusalem, perched on tree branches, crowded in doorways. Like the people of Memphis, they were there to greet the one they believed would set them free. Like the people of Memphis, they too had lived under the heavy yoke of oppression. “Hosanna,” they shouted, which means “save us.” And in Memphis, the people said “Amen.” And like the Liberator in Memphis, that One too would be killed because of what he said and did.
Did Jesus know what he was in for as he entered the city? Was he aware that his days on earth were numbered?
I will never know the answer to that question, nor whether Dr. King was prophesying his own death. Nonetheless, what does seem clear is that each remained faithful to the call to which God had called him, to the end.
Loving and Ever-present One, you have sent men and women to us to show us your Way of justice, peace and reconciliation. As we look to the week ahead, with its sorrow and its surprise, keep us faithful to our call as we too do our part to heal a hurting world. Amen.