Palm Sunday: Mark 11:1-11
Entrance Song: Enter into Jerusalem….Traditional Caribbean version.
“Enter into Jerusalem, let we go a down there,
With your brother and your sister, and all a God’s people,
Let we go a down there.
We gon celebrate, we gon celebrate,
We gon celebrate, O Israel!”
This popular worship song which suggests that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was an occasion for celebration, belies His prediction of the events that would take place there leading to His suffering and death on the cross (Matthew 20:18-19). Jesus never foretold the ‘going up to Jerusalem’ in any way to suggest that there was to be a kind of ‘triumph’ involved, no ‘last hurrah’ as it were, before he was taken before Pilate to be abused and humiliated with lashes, a crown of thorns, nakedness, and the final ignominy of the cross. So why is this arrival into Jerusalem, the prelude to the ordeal to come, perceived as ‘triumphant’ in the tradition of many Christian confessions? Why did Jesus personally orchestrate His entry into the great city the way He did? Jerusalem was teeming with pilgrims from all over the Jewish world to celebrate the Passover, one of the most important and holy events in the Jewish calendar and He was one such pilgrim. What did he hope to achieve?
Humility and a red carpet
The text tells us that he came to the edge of town and asked two of his disciples to go and get a donkey. They did as they were told, prepared the animal for Him to ride, and he entered the city riding on the donkey. This in itself was a sign of humility…to arrive in the city at the time of the Passover on a donkey does not suggest a great personage about to do great things like a religious or political revolution which the disciples and many of His followers were secretly hoping He would do.
Many of the pilgrims in Jerusalem would have heard of Jesus and the great works He did. Some of them would have met him personally and maybe even been the recipients of one of His miracles. They spontaneously rolled out the ‘red carpet’ by laying out palms and clothing to cover the ground on which his donkey would pass. The masses who greeted His entry into Jerusalem with such enthusiasm, affection and respect would have understood, appreciated and related to this gesture of humility. But this act and the people’s ‘Hosannas’ in response to it, would also have been noticed by the Jewish authorities who had been bent on persecuting Jesus from the time His public ministry began when He had challenged their hypocrisy and oppressive behaviour.
He was making a point
Jesus’ action on this occasion could be construed as political. He wanted the ‘powers that be’, the Jewish elite, as well as the Roman military rulers, to see and know that he could command the attention, support and solidarity of the common people. He was prepared to suffer and die at their hands because it was the will of His Father that he do so for the salvation of the world (John 18:37). He was making the point that as He prepared Himself for this final act that would complete and conclude His mission on earth, He was not at their mercy and was not afraid of their power and might or what such power could do to Him in making the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus knew He would be sustained by the love of His Father and His desire to do His Father’s will.
So here was the ‘triumph’ for Jesus
He knew that His death was not the end of the story. He knew that those who knew Him then and paid Him homage as he entered the city, and those who know Him now, His present followers and disciples who benefit from His great gift of salvation, would express their love and gratitude by carrying the ‘good news’ of His love and forgiveness to the ends of the earth after His death, resurrection and glorification.
In the Caribbean where the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS is second only to sub-Saharan Africa., where the effects of globalized capitalism continues to widen the gap between the rich and the poor and where violence against women is still socially acceptable, ministry and mission from the perspective of the people in the struggle for justice and inclusiveness, are imperative aspects of faith in Jesus Christ. In my work I collaborate with the organization Persons Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in solidarity with their struggle against stigma and discrimination. This past February I attended the ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) which was held at Porto Allegre, Brazil, which had as its theme: “God in your Grace, transform the world”. This theme reminds us that in the search for God’s reign on earth, the gospel imperative for social transformation is as critical as is its invitation to personal conversion.
Let’s Ask Ourselves…
In situations of material disparity, in contexts of survival and threat to human life, how can our perception of power, greatness and service change as a result of our understanding the way Jesus entered Jerusalem at a very crucial and pivotal point of his ministry and service on earth?
What actions, theologically, politically and practically, can we, our church family and other ecumenical partners make to ensure that the Gospel of the fullness of life in Jesus Christ spreads out and takes fresh expression in the life and mission of the Church?
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage 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.
Apr 10, 2006