Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
This week we head backwards a bit in the Gospel of John. This Sunday, Palm Sunday is to set the stage for all that is to come and for some places we have been. Rewind to six days before Passover. Rewind to before Jesus washes the disciples’ feet but right after Mary has anointed Jesus feet. Rewind to before our denial and trials. Remember that there are plots and thoughts about how to stage and get rid of Jesus. For this Sunday we back up to when Jesus is just revving up towards Holy Week. God is doing something pretty crazy this week.
That is where we enter today. So often for Palm Sunday we celebrate and then move on instead of recognizing the political act that Jesus is taking on. Because of Passover, there are more people in the city of Jerusalem then there is any other time of year. This sets the perfect stage for something different. Marcus Borg suggests that Pilate is processing in at the same time in another part of the city. Pilate represents power and prestige.
Jesus is intentionally creating a political and revolutionary scene. He takes on the prophecy from Zechariah and rides in on a donkey. The donkey represents peace and a different world rather than power. And in John the people actually take down Palm Branches to celebrate this act. Palm Sunday is not just a fun parade; it is the scene that becomes the central conflict for the entire week. It is a political and religious demonstration. While Pilate rides in to demonstrate force and military, Jesus rides in to demonstrate peace and a new kingdom.
Is that what the crowd came to see? What where they seeking? Roman rule was becoming more and more of an empire and oppressive force. Jesus didn’t come to take over Pilate’s system, he came to replace it. Isn’t that what the crowd came to see and to celebrate? Isn’t that what I claim to celebrate when I claim to follow Jesus? If I am following Jesus and crying Hosanna, I am proclaiming a different way. A way of peace. A way of finding where the Empire doesn’t touch and bring that marginalized space to light and life. A way that isn’t about violence and oppression but about equality and a new kind of ruler. When we come to this procession, we are actively participating in a new hope, a new way of being. We are not coming to a parade to watch but to a act of change and new life. Unfortunately we will still need to wade through betrayal and death to realize where we stand today. But then we will have the promise of new life next week.
Quotes of the Week
“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” ― Thomas Jefferson
“To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing” ― Raymond Williams
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Apple Inc.
John 12: 12-17 (NRSV) The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
the King of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify.
Questions for the Week
What are you seeking when you come to see Jesus?
How does Palm Sunday set the stage for Holy Week for you?
Would you have come to see the procession?