The crowd in Jerusalem that day was looking for a king who would save them from oppression and violence once and for all, a king on their side who ruled with power and might.
They hailed him King, “Hosanna; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!”, according to the gospel of John, as he made his entrance. A short time later, some of the same crowd would cry, “Crucify him!” We ask ourselves which crowd we are standing in. What sort of king are we looking for this Palm Sunday, also called “Passion Sunday”?
We have to wonder about our own passions. What are they? Those things that we are passionate about. Are they worth putting our lives and livelihood on the line? It’s one thing to be passionate about our children, spouse, lover, friends; but what about those people and issues beyond our small circle? Is there any passion beyond ourselves?
Is Christ your King? For what we see of him these next few days does not depict the kind of king we might adore.
He won’t look like much of a king on Holy Thursday when Judas dips his hand in the dish and betrays him with a kiss, no less. Or when Peter denies him three times just as Jesus had foretold. Or when he is washing the disciples’ dirty, dusty, smelly feet. That’s not the work of kings and important people.
He won’t look like a king standing before the heights of government, and instead of commanding legions to come down and strike, he says almost nothing at all.
He won’t look much like a king all bloodied and scarred hanging on a cross; vulnerable and weak; alone and suffering; unrecognizable – there is no form nor comeliness that any should desire in him. Or being spat on like mere rubbish.
And oh that cry – “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me!” It sounds so pitiful; more like something you and I might say (or some version of that) in moments of despair and isolation, or vulnerability, loneliness, or death – not like royalty at all.
All this week Jesus ushers in a new reality, a new kind of kingdom with a whole new set of possibilities.
It has taken all these years for humanity to try to adjust to it and it’s still not easy. We’ll need to pay careful attention and do our own good work for his way, that makes room for sinners and outcasts – lowest of the low. Not only makes room, but lifts them up and lifts them out of their plight onto equal footing with all the rest.
The paradoxes are palpable. Glory that leads to humiliation and humiliation that leads to glory. Life that leads to death and death that leads to life. Emptying that leads to being filled and fullness that leads to emptying. Peace. Hope.
We embrace his agony as we embrace our own and we remember that even our worst failings are not enough to separate us from what God is doing. Not even our worst selves prohibit us from taking our place and being claimed as the Beloved.
This holy moment, so pregnant, so beautiful and precious, so marred and yet so triumphant, allows us to envision something better for ourselves and the world in which we live. Can you go there?
And though the story is ancient, we need it now more than ever. I know I do. I need it more than ever – Holy Week. Love that wins. Triumph. I need a king who aligns himself with my sorrows and troubles, who did not think it robbery to be like me and to love me so passionately.
Ride on, King Jesus, ride on! It’s going to be a rough week; a rough week like so many rough weeks, right? Excruciating, painful, lonely, fearful, hateful and hated weeks. Ride on, our king! Help us to stay the course and dare to journey with you.