There were two processions that day. The first included Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor escorted by the roman legions that arrived every year in Jerusalem to strengthen the garrison there to prevent any uprisings during the celebration of Passover. Passover was the yearly celebration of freedom and escape from oppression and the Romans would not want it to get out of hand. Entering the city of Jerusalem the legions announced the coming of the governor and cleared the rabble out of the road. It was an expression of political power, military might, and the culture of inducing fear into the populace in order to control their actions and maintain their acquiescence.
The second procession was in counterpoint to the first – it included a man riding on a donkey while the poor and the marginalized threw branches on the road ahead of him calling him “Son of David.” There were no soldiers, nor might nor any display of power. It was so different from that first procession – it was almost comical except that it drew heavily on the symbolism of the Old Testament – the entry of Kings such as Saul & David. The priests and temple officials were not laughing. They began to plot in earnest how to trap Jesus – how to end his ability to inspire and inflame the outcasts and nobodies. They understood the second procession was more dangerous for them than the first. And the beginnings of the dynamics of this week we call Holy week that would lead to Golgotha began.
As the week progressed the plan came together and they were able to arrest this rabbi. And by shrewd manipulation of facts they led the populace to go along with their plan of destruction. They even got the Roman Governor to find Jesus deserving of death – if only to protect his status and power.
Two processions… one of which we are part is the second. We are the followers of the one who was considered dangerous and anti-establishment; we tread in the tradition of the one who pointed out that the way of God is not the way of power, military might, money, or privilege. Christianity is still counter-cultural even today.
And the mandate of the Gospel continues to be for us to follow where Jesus has led the way and to place ourselves before power, principalities, authorities and rulers to witness to the power of love even in the face of evil and death. The words of Jesus echo through the centuries to us “take up your cross and follow me.”