Sunday, April 01, 2007
Grid::Blog::Via Crucis 2007 - Palm Sunday
I'm participating in the Via Crucis Grid Blog for Holy Week and signed up to write a reflection for today, Palm Sunday. (You can sign up to be part of the grid blog too by clicking here.)

Naturally I preached on Christ's Triumphal Entry today in church. My topic was borrowed from Rob Bell's Palm Sunday sermon at Mars Hill last year: I talked about the two ways to enter a city - the way of Pilate (with authority, strength, domination, violence) or the way of Jesus (with humility, peace, and a willingness to suffer). Here's a few excerpts from the sermon:

Passover is a remembrance of the fact that God is concerned about the suffering and oppression of his people, and that in the past he has rescued them from foreign domination. Every year at Passover the Jews gather in Jerusalem at the Temple Mount to celebrate the fact that their God liberates the oppressed.

Historians tell us that in the time of Jesus approximately 200,000 Jews would have gathered at the Temple at Passover.

Let me ask you this: if you’re Pilate, how excited would you be about 200,000 Jews gathering to celebrate their liberation from a foreign oppressor?...

Yeah, you might not be too thrilled about this. What if they start talking and drinking and start to say to each other “We could take this Pilate guy. We could take him down.” But on the other hand, if you just cancel Passover, their most holy of holy days, you’ll almost certainly have a revolt on your hands.

So if you’re Pilate, how do you send a message: “Don’t even think about it. You do not mess with Rome.”?

What Pilate would do is right before Passover he would take a big chunk of his troops and march from his palace in Caesarea on the coast of the Mediterranean to Jerusalem. He would come in a show of force, with pomp and circumstance. His men would come in full armor, with swords and spears bristling, marching in time, with their metal clanking and their heels pounding... and Pilate would have been riding at the head of this army on a mighty war horse. The Romans called this kind of procession a “Triumph” – this was Pilate’s Triumphal entry. And it’s all about strength, authority, domination. It’s meant to instill fear and terror. It’s Pilate’s way of saying “Do not mess with me.”

But if Pilate enters Jerusalem from the west with a show of force, how does Jesus enter? Luke 19 tells us that he rode in on a donkey, and he did this because of a prophecy in Zechariah 9:9
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Jesus rides in on a colt as another way of saying “I’m the king you’ve been waiting for.”

But in Jewish teaching there’s often this thing called a remez, which is when you quote the first part of a verse, but what you really want is for your hearers to remember the second part of the verse, or the next verse. So to get Jesus’ point for riding in on a donkey you can’t just look at verse 9, you have to keep reading. Verse 10 says:
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

So when the king comes he will take away the weapons of war from the Jews and proclaim a reign of peace to the whole world. This Messiah that they were to expect is deeply opposed to war. His way is the opposite of violent domination. Maybe that’s why when the disciples following Jesus start calling “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” they follow it by saying “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” They are proclaiming a king of peace.

So while Pilate enters from the west with symbols of war, Jesus enters Jerusalem from the east bearing symbols of peace. It’s a way of declaring that Jesus’ kingdom is totally at odds with the kingdom of Rome and all who follow its way of violence.

Read the whole sermon by clicking here.


posted by Mike Clawson at 3:50 PM | Permalink |


At 4/01/2007 06:21:00 PM, Blogger Scot McKnight

My school computer, which I take home with me, doesn't seem to remember your e-mail, so let me apologize for directing this comment on this post -- off topic, to be sure.

If you can e-mail me back it would help me; I'll somehow find a permanent home for your address.

All this to say: we are thrilled you have invited Alise and James to the summer event. They are special folks.


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