[box] “See your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey…” [/box]
I’ve been in church on Palm Sunday close to as many years as I’ve been alive so I’ve heard the story before. Hosanna! Save us! The little ones parade around with branches of palms and we celebrate Jesus as our King.
Imagine Jerusalem, filled to the brim for the approaching holiday, akin to a mall on the Saturday before Christmas or a grocery store on Christmas Eve, but on religious steroids. Excitement for the feast gets multiplied when a huge crowd of people come marching into town shouting about someone who has come to save us.
[box] When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowd answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:10-11)[/box]
I have to wonder about the crowds and the people. Who did they believe Jesus was saving them from?
The quick and easy answer is Rome – they were living in an occupied nation and desired freedom. Sure. Yes.
Just a chapter earlier.
[box] “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.” (Matthew 20:18)[/box]
Passover wasn’t a political holiday. It was a religious one. Pilot cared about the festival because parking was limited and prices of lamb chops went sky high, not because it marked any kind of significance to his Fatherland or his personal faith. Passover came with solid religious ties and Jesus came to town knowing it was going to be a religious showdown. The Gentiles wouldn’t deal with him until after the Chief Priests and Pharisees had their way.
On this, our day of freedom, in a country founded largely (but not solely) on a quest to find freedom in religious practices, I have to wonder if I’m not the first – nay, the last – to feel pressed on both sides, finding solutions in neither corner. The polis offers a version of freedom in its own way, but not necessarily a satisfactory one, as evidenced earlier this week. Yet the voices from the religious elite are nothing short of suffocating.
With Jesus’ crowd in mind, I have to wonder if the social unrest we feel might blame our politics but be at fault with our religion.
I wonder if Jesus’ crowd coming into town that day included a bunch of misfits without a strong tie to the political or religious powerhouses. Folks whom Rome used for taxes and the religious leaders kept under thumb by reminding them how short they fell on God’s meter. Neither entity serving the people as intended.
Hosanna in the highest heaven.