One of my favorite series to preach has been The Last Week, inspired by Borg and Crossan’s marvelous book by the same title. It takes a look at the last week of Jesus’ life according to the Gospel of Mark. For Holy Week this year, I’m sharing a series of devotions based on the same. Selfishly, this will allow me to embrace this journey in a reflective manner. Thanks as always for reading I hope you find them meaningful as well.
The last week on earth for Jesus begins with the day we now know and celebrate as Palm Sunday. It may be curious to you as to why exactly this is a celebration. It ultimately leads to Jesus’ death on the cross. This day really calls us to reflect. There is not one, but two parades. Everyone loves a parade. These are two very different parades representing two competing ways of life. Here is what Mark has to say:
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethpage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.”They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
People have begun to descend on Jerusalem for the festival of Passover. There is typically one grand entry into Jerusalem, however this year something is different. There are two parades.
One parade comes from the West, the procession of the Roman Empire led by the Governor Pontius Pilate. Pilate is not coming because he is an overly religious man, rather he comes as a show of power, of force. He comes to be seen and to keep an eye on things. In Roman Empire theology, the emperor is not only the ruler of the empire, but is considered to be the Son of God. There are Roman cavalry and soldiers with him. This is a military parade, meant to strike fear into the people. No doubt Pilate was expected a big crowd for his entry because he represents the empire.
From the East comes another parade, that of Jesus and the disciples. They are coming from the city of Jericho. A bit of a geography lesson here. Jericho was only about 12 miles away from Jerusalem and there was a well traveled road between the two. But consider this. Jericho was one of the lowest cities on the earth at about 800 feet below sea level. Jerusalem is about 3000 feet above sea level. You faced an upward route through a hot, dry, and dusty desert and when you finally get to the top of the Mount of Olives you have a beautiful view of Jerusalem down below in a valley. Think of the excitement you would feel as a follower of Jesus standing there. It is Passover, but it is also kingdom time, a time when God’s saving presence would be revealed in a new way. God’s way was coming to bring about lasting change. It would have been from this point that Jesus would wait to make his entrance.
In the First Testament, there is a prophet Zechariah who wrote of two different kingdoms. A kingdom of violence and a kingdom of peace. He predicted that a king, a king of peace would come to Jerusalem riding on a colt in humility, proclaiming God’s kingdom. This is how Jesus makes his entrance.
Imagine being the crowd that day, laying your cloak down on the road, waving a palm branch, shouting Hosanna, blessed is the coming kingdom of David.
Imagine Pilate coming in from the other end of town, expecting a royal welcome, expecting a crowd and getting not much of one. I am sure someone told him something was going on at the other end of town
Hosanna is a Hebrew word that means exuberant praise to God, the kingdom we have been waiting for is coming
Two very different parades. Two competing ways of life.
Now it’s up to you to decide. Which parade are you in?