The palms distributed in many churches on Palm Sunday are reminders of a parade re-enacted in many ways in many churches. Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem – the New York City of Israel- riding a donkey, met by followers and curiosity seekers who stripped branches from the palm trees and laid them and their cloaks on the street a first century version of a red carpet.
What we don’t realize is there was a previous parade that same day coming in the gate on the other side of Jerusalem. It consisted of Pilate and the Roman legions – soldiers brought to Jerusalem during the holy days to maintain order and prevent a revolt. Pilate, riding a horse, led the troops. That was a parade of might and power, pageantry and wealth. Chariots, Pilate and many others riding horses
There was a tradition of that era that a leader with peaceful intentions would ride a donkey – a leader who was ready for war would ride a horse.
The message was clear. Pilate came as a Roman governor ready for war. This act out a threat – he was there to keep the peace, there were no protests no dissent allowed. This was the equivalent of the Marines landing with tanks, guns, unmanned drones and anti-personnel weapons.
Jesus parade purpose was very different. He wanted to establish the peaceful reign of God – a reign brought about not by military might but by conversion of the human heart. Jesus was not going to fulfill the expectations of those who wanted him to be a military leader to over throw the Roman government.
Because Jesus offered this symbol of a different way to live, a different way to rule, a different way to be as God’s people in the world he became a threat – and as it was expressed in one Gospel by the high priest “for the sake of the nation one man must die…”
The second parade of Palm Sunday led by a man on a donkey, coming in peace, becomes the procession of Good Friday to a cross on Calvary. This was meant by the Romans as a solution to end a problem and to warn his followers and others as to who was really in charge.
But this second parade, this alternate way of being has also given us choices:
- Who do we wish to honor, and to follow – The god of war or the prince of peace?
- Do we give up our core beliefs to save our skin, to make more money and to be judged successful by the world’s standards?
- Do we abandon our friends when they need us the most?
- What do we value most – so that we are willing to give our life to it…
The parade of the worlds powers enter by one gate. The Prince of Peace enters the others.
Which parade will you join and follow?
What do your actions say? The use of your time, your resources, your talents?
Which parade will you follow and join?