Summary: Jesus entry into Jerusalem marks him as a revolutionary--a threat to the Romans and Jewish authorities, and the door to an abundant life for his followers
Matthew 21:1-11 “Following the Parade”
As we enter into Holy Week and reflect on the passion and suffering of Jesus, many of us have difficulty understanding why the authorities executed Jesus. We see his compassion for the common people—healing the sick, feeding the multitude, exorcising demons, and preaching a gospel of love and hope. “What,” we ask ourselves, “Could the authorities have found wrong with that?”
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the way he accomplishes it show us why both the Romans and the Jewish authorities sought to kill Jesus. Jesus was a threat.
AN ALTERNATE PARADE
History records two parades taking place in Jerusalem on that fateful Sunday. Entering through the West gate was Pontius Pilate with his banners and legions. Jesus was entering through the East gate. The similarities and differences of these parades demonstrate the threat that Jesus posing to those in authority.
• Roman legions preceded Pilate through the gates of Jerusalem. They demonstrated Rome’s power. A rag tag band of disciples walked ahead of Jesus. God’s power would be demonstrated through their weakness.
• Pilate entered seated on a mighty war horse. Such a horse demonstrated his authority and position in life. Jesus humbly entered on a donkey—the mounts of servants and prophets.
• The crowds cried “Hosanna” to Pilate and asked Rome to save them and keep them safe. As Jesus rode past, the people shouted “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” People were looking to Jesus and to God for their salvation.
The Romans achieved peace through victory. Jesus was calling on his followers to achieve peace through justice.
Since the death and resurrection of Jesus, people have been given the choice of which parade they will follow. Will we live by seeking power, or by seeking justice?
I’m not sure if nations can follow the teachings of Jesus and seek peace through justice instead of force. Certainly our nation believes in force over justice. That’s demonstrated by the two wars in which we are presently engaged. Our society is also based on power rather than justice. Money speaks. Affluence and position is sought—if not to bring peace for others at least to bring peace for ourselves.
In such a culture, Jesus challenges his followers to seek peace through justice. Care for the marginalized, the downtrodden and the less fortunate is lifted up. The sharing of blessings—wealth, talents, gifts—is emphasized. The kingdom of God is not brought in by the sword but by acts of kindness and gracious words.
Such a path seems foolish, though. Often it doesn’t appear to be a successful way of life. Frequently, those who seek peace through justice pay a high price—like their leader, Jesus Christ. Still, the call, challenge and invitation are extended.
We know that by Thursday the cries of the crowd turned from “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” to “Crucify him!” Jesus didn’t turn out to be the Messiah that the people wanted. They wanted him to overthrow the Romans—those who oppressed them. When Jesus didn’t bring them comfort and security, they deserted him.
Even when they crucified Jesus, though, the parade continued. His followers eventually took up their crosses and followed him—seeking peace through justice. Throughout the centuries, followers of Jesus have continued his mission and ministry of peace through justice even when they are faced with powerful forces. Over and over again the power of love is demonstrated to be greater than any earthly power.
Jesus states that he came so that all of us might have life and have it abundantly. That abundance is experienced with justice. Even though justice is experienced by all, the abundant life can be experienced by those who strive for justice and to bring in God’s kingdom.
Come, let us follow Jesus’ parade so that others might know justice and experience the kingdom of God and abundant life in their lives.