Today is the day that Jesus did that triumphal march into Jerusalem on a donkey or a colt depending on the gospel and translation your reading. It is also the day than many pastors around the world thrust a palm branch into the hands of the members of their congregation and invite them to follow them out of the building and around in public making fools of themselves.
Well some feel like fools others get into it and wave their branches proudly at on coming traffic. Me? Well I am stuck in the middle – a little foolish and halfway waved my palm branch not entirely sure if the whole exercise is worth the effort and wondering if I can find my pew again where I left my glasses. I am thinking that next year I’ll get a bigger palm branch. That will make it seem like I am really into the procession and allow me to hide my face at the same time.
Take a moment to read the account of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem in Mark 11:1-11. …
Sounds like a big deal right? So why when I was walking around my church I did feel a little like I was moving out of step with the rest of the world? The traffic on the street in front of our church didn’t stop. By standards didn’t jump in and start signing praises. Has my faith become irrelevant in this world? I wonder if there were people marching with Jesus that wondered, “Is this the thing? Will this change anything?”
Reading the passage again there is one word that always stands out, ‘colt.’ I’ve been thinking about that. You hear a lot about Jesus ride this donkey. Strangely enough my pastor used that word as a theme in his sermon today (I’ve decided to ignore the fact that he ‘stole’ my idea and am going to press on).
We’ve also heard that Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey. I have no real experience with either the words or with the animals. I live in a city with cars. I rode a donkey once and I’ve been on a horse twice and both times watched carefully by the people that led us tourists down the trail on these animals.
I guess if you don’t have a car you’d ride a colt or a donkey or something. Makes sense to me that Jesus would need something to ride at the head of the parade. So what’s the big deal? Jesus is an important dude he should get a ride. I’d let him borrow my car or colt or whatever. Heck I’d even pay for the gas or hay or whatever.
Now read the first chapter in Borg and Crossan. Turns out that there was another big march in town that day – the Romans were also showing up for Passover but this time as a show of imperial power. There were a lot of people in town for the Passover and the Romans had a tradition of marching on that day to show off their power and remind the population that they ruled and had the power to enforce their will.
While the Romans are marching in on big powerful war horses, Jesus comes riding in on a little colt thumbing his noise at the powerful and accusing them of doing evil.
There is one other intertext reference to consider in Zechariah 9:9 where the writer describes how the king of kings, messiah will arrive by saying, “… your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Oh my. So if I am putting the bits together correctly, Jesus is riding to Jerusalem as the messiah – the one that will restore God’s kingdom to earth, restore justice and kick the Romans and their collaborators the Jewish religious authorities out of power.
All from the back of a colt with a rag tag band of followers and the few people in Jerusalem that didn’t go over to see better staged and likely more impressive Roman military procession (bet the Romans had drums and trumpets, maybe even popcorn or the first century equivalent of pop corn whatever that was).
The hard thing for me is that – well, okay, if I were alive back then, in those times, I’d have gone to see the Romans. I love a good military march, especially with trumpets and drums. The failing that I feel is that I am not sure I would have had the courage to show up and support Jesus in a cause that is right and just.
In this world today there is plenty of injustice, plenty of despair and plenty of people in need. The question is, “do I have the courage to show up and be a fool in Jesus’s parade?”