When Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples, Jerusalem had swelled to approximately two million people:
Imagine that you are at a boarding gate for a flight to Israel, several days before Passover, as passengers gather to travel to Jerusalem in time for the holiday. Men and women are jammed together; children are crying or laughing or temporarily vanishing. Now imagine that more than 250,000 families have assembled. And that each family unit is accompanied by one living sheep. And that everyone has to camp out for a week in the terminal before finally boarding the plane. April 19, 2019.
Crossan and Borg describe a scenario in which a Triumphant Entry by Jesus in one part of city is in sharp contrast with the procession of the Roman legions across town. We will never know if this was on the mind of Gospel writers. Jesus enters the city of Zion unhindered. Indeed, Palm Sunday is the day for Jesus and his disciples. The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About the Final Days of Jesus' Life. Harper Collins, 2007.
Preaching and Teaching Points Consider
- Explore the historical Jerusalem context of the Gospel narratives.
- The crowds have a range of reactions to the Triumphal Entry.
- Notice the worship and exultation of Jesus as King (palm branches, victory through gentleness and peace).
- There are surely Roman legions marching all over Jerusalem (victory through threat and violence).
- Rebuke, resistance, backlash (Pharisees).
- Resignation (Chief Priests and Elders).
- Joyful witness of Lazarus' Resurrection (those who heard and saw)
- The various reactions are parallels of our corporate and personal journeys.
- The range of reactions are still present- within the church and within each member.
Palm Sunday presents two options: 1) Choosing to live by threat of violence and harm or 2) The way of Jesus. His way as he taught in the Sermon on the Mount is embodied in his coronation on the Cross. His triumph is one of gentleness, peace, and the love of God, neighbor and self.
But the way of Christ is a harsh rebuke of my cherished American-Texas myth of peace and safety and harmony through more guns and more violence. The way of Christ and his kingdom is a diatribe against my weak resignation to the way of the mass murder of children, youth, and teachers. Their murders are not a necessary evil. The Christ of Holy Week does not offer American Christians the convenience of flying to Jesus in the midst of hell on earth.
Will Willimon once described a conversation he had with a Jewish neighbor. Willimon argued that the Sermon on the Mount had to be tempered with the world of realpolitik. His Jewish neighbor, concurred, yet added, in essence, "But my building does not have a cross on the top of it." Willimon, On a Wild and Windy Mountain, Abingdon, 1984.
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