Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab):
Psalms 84; 150, Zechariah 9:9-12, 1 Timothy 6:12-16, Zechariah 12:9-11, 13:1, 7-9
The Sunday before Easter is Palm (or Passion) Sunday, when we remember Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. At the height of his ministry and controversy, Christ entered the city riding a donkey, and the huge crowd gathered for Passover greeted him by throwing palm fronds on the path before him. This gesture was a sign of respect for victorious warrior kings … but that donkey told another story.
The prophet Zechariah wrote about the coming messiah as someone who would “command peace to the nations.” Traditionally a warrior king rode into conquered territory on an armored warhorse to signal his victory and dominance. A donkey, though, sent a message of humility. To a people hoping for a military savior to conquer their oppressors, this idea would have chafed. Yet Zechariah was not the only prophet telling the people of Israel to expect the unexpected. Christ’s reign was accomplished not only through peace, but through subservience, including submission to death on a cross. It was unthinkable. It certainly wasn’t what people wanted to hear, but prophetic voices told them anyway.
Like the Israelites, do we hope to assert our future through force? Every year churchgoers read the passion story and join our voices to those who shouted: “Crucify him!” By Easter we’re back to celebrating the resurrection, and little has changed. Rather than humbly live as we believe, we try to pass laws imposing our beliefs on the nation. We fail to speak truth to power – because in this time and place we are the power. All our talk of peace crumbles when we feel threatened; surely Jesus didn’t expect us to suffer for our faith when we could defend ourselves by going on the offensive?
Jesus enters the world through the poor, the sick, and the oppressed. Through our enemies. When we treat them with love we aren’t doing it on behalf of Jesus – we are doing it for Jesus. Christ reaches us not through merely unexpected avenues, but through unthinkable ones. Following Christ means choosing the donkey instead of the warhorse, even when that palm-strewn road leads to the cross.
Comfort: There are voices telling us how to follow Christ. We just need to learn to listen for them.
Challenge: Be careful not to confuse civic and secular authority with salvation and grace.
Prayer: God of Love, teach me the humble way of Jesus. Grant me ears to hear the truth, even when I don’t like it. Set words of peace and justice on my lips. Amen.
Discussion: What leaders appeal to your sense of anger, force, or division? When they speak, are you able to separate what you want to hear from the truth?
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