The pairing of Jesus’s celebrated entry into Jerusalem with the story of his Passion by many churches this Sunday presents a kind of emotional whiplash. It offers a warning to how we treat the prophets and revolutionaries of our own time.
The political resonances of Palm Sunday sound clearly when we read as if we didn’t already know the end of the story.
The donkey plays a surprisingly significant role in the history of Israel’s kingdom. Entering into Jerusalem on the back of a colt, Jesus performs a symbolic action that manifests his true identity and the character of his kingdom.
This procession down to Jerusalem is one of those very public moments in Jesus’ ministry. It could be called his most brilliant act of political theatre. Jesus proceeds toward Jerusalem, with a crowd that undoubtedly boasts some of the same sorts of outsiders Jesus has been connecting with all along: sinners, the possessed, the sick and blind, women, and foreigners. The crowd that shouts Hosanna would have been laughed at by any sensible members of society who happened upon this odd ritual. Much like I imagine today those with a high sense of their own political value would little understand what compelled these odd folk to gather as they had, creating trouble when they had little to gain but jail cells and crosses…