Sunday, April 09, 2006

palm sunday

This morning at the coffee/cookie table, my favorite place on the planet, I was talking with a student/friend about Palm Sunday. It began quite superficial – I think I said something about how beautiful the day is, and how it began overcast and cloudy but the sun broke through like Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He asked me if I’d ever heard of the symbolic usage of the palm fronds for the zealots. No, I hadn’t. Well supposedly, the zealots in Jerusalem used the palm fronds as their symbol, so the laying of the fronds upon Jesus entry was a sign that they were celebrating a political entry into the capital city.
I was very interested in that because I’ve always been intrigued at the fickleness of the folks who sang Hosanna as Jesus entered the city, and a few days later screamed “crucify him.” I inquired about this curiosity even as a young kid. It seemed that I always got a slightly different answer, and never a satisfying one. Some would tell me that just shows you the fickleness and disloyalty of the human heart. Others would assure me that it was not the same crowd who showed these polar extremes in their responses to Jesus.
The zealot, political crowd explanation makes sense to me. In the course of a few days, they began to see that Jesus was not there for the reasons they had assumed and that their wishes weren’t going to come to fruition. They were disenchanted, disappointed, and furious.
Later, after I’d been thinking about these things, I read a blog post that had a different spin on the whole event, albeit one that misunderstands Jesus’ actions, purposes, and intent in much the same way the zealots might have if that was in fact what happened. This explanation, inspired by Marcus Borg, had Jesus staging a political protest in the form a march a la Dr. King, on one side of the city, whilst the Roman Governor Marched his might into the city on the other side, to display is power and military force. The governor marched in his horses and chariots and soldiers, and Jesus on a donkey with some fishermen and tax collectors hanging close. This, I’m sure , would have been how the political zealots were interpreting things and would explain why they turned on him when they figured out the reality of the entrance. It would appear though that we can still interpret his actions that way, but instead of realizing the truth within a few days, we assume that everyone else has just spun the story so as not to make Jesus appear defeated with his political, social and economic protest squelched.
The whole thought process has challenged me to think more deeply this week, having realized that we really do tend to interpret events, teachings, and intentions based on our own passions, desires, and presuppositions.
We have recorded, Jesus’ own words saying that his kingdom was not of this world, if it were of this world, his soldiers would be there to free him. We also have the words written about him centuries earlier, “he surrendered himself to death, he was counted with the wicked to take away the sins of the world, and win pardon for our offenses.”
So to hold the position of the zealots these 2000 years later and insist that he was making a political protest is to really miss the point of his incarnation, not just his entry into Jerusalem for Passover. We celebrate this week because Jesus accomplished precisely what he came to do.

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