It is Palm Sunday. Today is the beginning of the end. The beginning of our holiest week as Christians. When the passionate one who is Christ moves toward his passion, his suffering. He has planned it all just right: There is a donkey, a foal, tied in the place expected. The disciples go and find it just as he has said. And so they do just as he has told them to: they bring the foal and throw their cloaks on it and Jesus begins his triumphal entry. His grand entrance, his parade.
“Hosanna!” They shout! “Save us!”
And yet, this parade isn’t so grand. It doesn’t compare to the parade of Pilate and the Romans when they come to town, with all their pomp and circumstance, with all of their money, and lavishness. This parade isn’t so grand. It’s the parade of a humble servant. A not-so very kingly king.
The actions of Jesus mark him as the hoped for Messiah. They connect him with those words of Zechariah and therefore the expectations of all Jews living at that time: the hopes that someone would come and save them from Roman rule, save them from the occupiers and collaborators – some even their own people clinging and grasping for power.
Those hopes and expectations were as varied as our own hopes and dreams are now. How might we be saved, now? Through power? Through money? Through military might and spreading democracies? Through less government, or more? When these people are in power or when those ones are? Through that new job opening? When the kids get older? When the world gets somehow cleaner or safer? When the weather changes and the world becomes warm again?
How might we be saved?
Jesus triumphal entry was a direct demonstration against the powers of his time: All of them.
His triumphal entry was a symbolic challenge to the Roman forces who were infiltrating Jerusalem at the same time, preparing to show force if the Passover celebrations got out of hand. Power is not the way to salvation, he said.
It was a symbolic challenge to the forces of Jewish religious hierarchy at the time; See the ways that Jesus challenges the structure of what was, rebels against the conventional, challenges the traditional toward a more humble and holy way. Servanthood is the way of the God of Israel, he said.
Whatever the people wanted, Whatever they expected, Whatever they hoped for, it was not what they got. Because the way of God is not triumphalist. The way of God is like a whisper. It does not take power for itself but gives it away freely and with reckless abandon. It is in the stillness and calm. It does not thunder in with trumpets blazing, but it rides quietly, humbly in on the foal of a donkey.
Christ’s is not the kingdom of power
it is not the kingdom of might
it is not the kingdom of who’s in or who’s out.
Whatever has awed you…
be it money or things, beauty or extravagance, power or influence…
this week, be awed by Jesus…
Be transformed by his innocence…
Be moved by his weakness…
Be awed by his calm, deliberate walk toward love.