The World awaits the King
April 4, 2012
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, as prophesied by the prophet Zechariah. This ride combined with his actions in the temple forced the hands of both Jewish religious and political leaders (Pharisees, Sadducees and Herod), and the Roman authority (most specifically represented by Pilate). This past Sunday, April 1, we looked at Jesus' ride into Jerusalem, and the expectations of the people as Jesus made this ride.
As Jesus rode the people waved Palm branches and shouted Hosanna. Hosanna basically means, Lord save, but had become something of a liturgical praise exclamation. In shouting Hosanna the people were crying out for God to do what he had done before. Most specifically, they would have had the Exodus in mind, the time when God saved the Jewish people from their enslavement in Egypt. This would have been right at the forefront of their minds, because Jesus was after all, riding into Jerusalem at the start of the passover week, the week when all Jews remembered the time of their Exodus from Egypt.
The people were not only shouting Hosanna, they were waving palm branches. As they waved they would have been thinking of another time of liberation for the Jewish people – the time of Judas Macabee (Macabee means the hammer) and his brothers. A little more than a century and a half before Jesus, Judas and his brothers had delivered the Jewish people from oppression by ‘Gentiles’ (a word that basically just means – not Jewish). Later Judas, brother Simon would also deliver the Jewish people from the 'Gentiles' and then entered the city of Jerusalem with palm branches and singing. In Jesus day the palm branch meant Jewish revolution.
The Jewish people desired another violent revolution where a leader, King, Messiah, would lead them in revolt against the Roman overlords and violently throw off the oppression of Rome. Roman rulers knew of this threat and had a fairly effective way of quelling rebellion and keeping the peace known as crucifixion. Roman rulers would very publicly execute insurrectionists with their charge written above them. Later that week they would charge Jesus as the “King of the Jews.” (Remember the cry from the leaders ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ Pilate in effect says ‘Too right! there is no king but Caesar and other would be kings must die).
But this is moving ahead in the story. That day the Jewish people where celebrating Jesus as their liberator. They of course were right, but at the same time they could not have been more wrong. They were right Jesus had come to bring liberty, but it was liberty from an enemy much greater than Rome. Jesus came to bring liberty from the great enemies of humanity: sin, satan and death. They thought Jesus would win the victory through the violent overthrow of Rome, but instead Jesus absorbs all the violence and evil of the oppression of Rome, (and Paul tells us of the powers and authorities behind Rome, and for that matter the powers and authorities that seek to keep all of humanity bound). Jesus absorbs this onto himself at the cross. The cross was the Roman way of bringing peace. It turns out the cross was God’s also. The Roman idea of the cross was to humiliate and expose would be insurrectionists. Jesus at the cross, according to Paul, instead completely exposes and triumphs over evil.
Remarkably as Jesus hangs on the Roman cross, instead of calling for the legion of angels to wipe out the Roman crucifixion detail, he calls on his Father to forgive them. Instead of violence, the Roman oppressors are being shown forgiveness. Then another remarkable thing happens, we see God's plan to bring peace immediatley beginning to work, after Jesus dies, the Roman Centurion exclames truly this "man was the Son of God." This Roman oppresor had been brought peace.
This was certainly not what the crowd which waved palm branches on that Sunday hoped for. As they week wore on they began to realize that Jesus’ revolution would not be a violent revolution. So, their cries of Hosanna on Sunday had moved to 'crucify' by Friday morning.
Jesus is still as surprising today as he was then. Are we willing to join his revolution on his terms? Are we willing to pray as he taught us? “Forgive us our sins as we forgive.”
The events of the week, in which Jesus rode into Jerusalem are the hinge upon which history turns. They are the beginning of his new community. Jesus’ community after this week became known as a community of revolutionary love where the barriers between people were broken down. After the events of that week, people who were swept up in the Jesus revolution learned that they were to no longer call another group of people enemies, but rather as they together turned towards Jesus they were to call each other: ‘brother.’
As the story of God and God's people draws to a close, (the close of the chapters involving sin, death and dieing, which as CS Lewis pointed out is really the beginning of the story where each chapter is better than the last), there is a multitude beyond numbering from every tribe, tongue and nation (the barriers are gone) waving palm branches and crying out: "Salvation belongs to our God!" In other words the shouts of Hosanna have been fulfilled beyond the imaginings of the crowd on that Sunday.
Jesus’ revolution was and is and always will be the most remarkable and wonderful revolution.
May we be people of revolutionary love following our revolutionary king. May we turn from our personal dreams of vengeance and revenge and instead, dream Jesus’ dreams of forgiveness and reconciliation.