On a spring day in the year 30, two processions entered Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover. From the east, leading a peasant procession, Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives. His message was about the Reign of God and his followers came from the peasant class. From the west came an imperial procession led by Pontius Pilate the Roman governor. Pilate’s procession displayed not only imperial power, but also Roman imperial theology. The emperor was not simply the ruler of Rome, but the Son of God. This imperial procession was standard practice in Jerusalem for the major Jewish festivals to assure there was no trouble.
Jesus’ procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. This contrast is central to the story of Jesus. His was a voice about what loyalty to the God of Judaism meant.
Two processions entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The same question, the same alternative, faces those who would be faithful to Jesus today. This is the question of Palm Sunday and of the week that is to unfold:
Which procession are we in? Which procession do we want to be in?
Adapted from The Last Week by Marcus Borg
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
In our time, what are the implications of the question posed above?
What is your usual choice?
When the great crowd that had come to the feast heard
that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,
the king of Israel.”
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you; righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
But everyone who lined the streets had a different reason for waving those palms. Some were political activists; they’d heard Jesus had supernatural power, and they wanted him to use it to free Israel from Roman rule. Others had loved ones who were sick or dying. They waved branches, hoping for physical healing. Some were onlookers merely looking for something to do, while others were genuine followers who wished Jesus would establish himself as an earthly king. Jesus was the only one in the parade who knew why he was going to Jerusalem – to die. He had a mission, while everyone else had an agenda.
The world has a history of denouncing and killing messiahs who don’t deliver what it wants. Moreover, the world does not want a God who is God over against the world. Rather, the world wants a lapdog god it can domesticate and control, a sweet god who indulges and blesses the sickness, the selfishness–in other words, the sinfulness of the world. The world does not want a messiah, or for that matter, doctors or lawyers or pastors or parents who give people what they need. The world wants a messiah and doctors and lawyers and pastors and parents who give people what they want.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was disturbed. The people asked, “Who is this man?” And the crowd answered, “This is the Prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.