PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION
Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.
The story of God revealed in Jesus has and continues to confound the world. As we enter into Holy week, I find it difficult to place myself in the immediate context of Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem. My problem is that I know how it all ends, so I do not find myself convinced by the proclamation of the crowds that come out to greet him and announce, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.” In my own mind I know beforehand the role the crowd plays in the passion we read as today’s Gospel.
Certitude about how this story ends spoils all the remaining plot twists. The Romans are not kicked out of Palestine, Jesus dies, and then is raised from the dead. More importantly, certitude cuts against one of the major themes of the Gospels; God’s actions in our lives does not conform to our expectations or rules for how God should act in our lives.
That Jesus, “The Son of David” entered Jerusalem on a beast of burden confounds some human expectations. Instead of entering the city as a conqueror, as King David did, Jesus enters on an ass. The crowd tries to dress it up by cutting palms and throwing their cloaks before him – royal enough in a pinch. By the end of today’s Gospel there is no dressing it up. The Son of David is dead, unable to throw off the yoke of foreign conquerors and restore God's Justice among the people of Israel.
This is not how it was supposed to go. The Messiah – The Son of David was supposed to restore the good-ole days. God is not bound by our expectations and rules. I re-encounter this fact every Sunday, and especially during Easter when so many of our stories are contain this theme. The Son of David washing the disciples’ feet. Peter denying Jesus and going on to become the rock the Church is built on. The multiple renditions of Jesus’s death on the cross as a convicted criminal. The challenge is not to figure out how God is going to act, but being present to and recognizing God's Grace at work in our lives.
John Burke is the Campus Minister for Faith and Justice.