This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, and this year’s text is Matthew 21:1-11.
Matthew paints a comical scene as he puts Jesus riding on both the donkey and her colt at the same time. I read somewhere, and I wish I could remember where, that Matthew is being too literal in his interpretation of a figurative image given by the prophet Zechariah and all of the theological reasons for this.
I like to think though, Matthew paints it this way on purpose, reminding us of the humility and really awkwardness that Jesus makes his entrance into Jerusalem. It’s not what you would expect of a Messiah or King.
Around the same time at another end of town, another parade happens one not recorded in the scriptures. A parade that is supposed to garner the attention of the people sending them a sure message. In this parade Pilate flexes his muscles in front of the people at the start of the Jewish feast days that if they cause any trouble, they will be stopped. He will enforce the Roman peace no matter what. He sends a message.
The difference between the two parades is striking; one much like a peaceful protest, one an assertion of perceived power. And on Palm Sunday maybe we can ask ourselves of which parade we want a part.
As Christians our response should be that we want the awkward humble parade the one that is over in a few minutes, the one celebrated by everyday people, the one that leads to sacrifice. That is indeed the Sunday school answer.
Yet do we find ourselves instead choosing a parade similar to Pilate, where we flex our muscles and insist that we are right and will “keep the peace” at whatever the cost?
A couple of weeks ago an announcement was made that World Vision in the States had made a controversial policy change in their hiring department. They decided that they would allow for the hiring of married homosexual couples. The politics of the decision are complicated, and I don’t wish to get into the details here either for or against, but the reaction to this change was swift and powerful.
Evangelical (right-wing) Christianity wasted no time in organizing itself and pulling sponsorship’s. Within 48 hours it was reported that 2000 sponsorship’s had been dropped as a result of the initial policy change by World Vision. The actual totals however were somewhere around 10,000, forcing World Vision to reverse their decision.
As I sit here this afternoon I’m thinking about Jesus parade, it doesn’t seem very organized, it does seem awkward, and it is humble surrounded by those considered to be riff-raff, not the very powerful. I’m also thinking about the fact that people calling themselves Christians would rather see communities that are already suffering, suffer even more than to see homosexual couples have a job helping feed the hungry.
And you know, I fully admit that even as I serve, I have not got everything figured out. But something inside me tells me that something has gone terribly wrong when we flex our muscles under the guise of standing up for morality, rather than riding on in humility.
So I guess I really just want to ask us to consider again, which parade do we really want to join? I for one, want to join Jesus parade and find myself “throwing my cloak” beneath his feet, he who truly rides on in majesty.