Summary: There are two paths to peace: force or love.Jesus came to show the limits of force and the power of love.
Luke 19:29-44 “The Path to Peace”
“I love a parade, the tramping of feet, I love every beat I hear of a drum.
I love a parade, when I hear a band I just want to stand and cheer as they come.”
Everyone loves a parade, whether it is the grand “Tournament of Roses” parade or the lowly homecoming parade. Parades are exciting; they get your blood rushing.
Usually parades have a message. The Rose Bowl Parade has a yearly theme. Memorial Day parades have a solemn grandeur. North Korea parades its military hardware to proclaim its power, and homecoming parades attempt to foretell the demise of the luckless opponents.
Today we join the residents of Jerusalem as they welcome Jesus of Nazareth. Some say that he is a great prophet, while others whisper that he may be the long awaited Messiah. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the parade of his followers is highly symbolic. It carries a powerful message, even though few of the people along the streets understood it. We are able today to reflect upon it.
Luke is very clear in portraying Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as an intentional act on his part. Jesus was not lured into the events of Holy Week, nor was he trapped, nor tricked. Jesus deliberately chose to enter Jerusalem and to journey toward the cross.
Jesus can see into the future. He sends two of his disciples of his disciples ahead of him, so that they can secure a colt. Jesus tells the disciples where they will find the colt, what the owners will say when the disciples start to untie the colt, and how the disciples are to respond. The events of Holy Week are no surprise to him.
Jesus leaves and returns to Jerusalem the next day. As he approaches the city, he pauses to grieve and weep. The people of Jerusalem were blind to the path of peace that Jesus presented them. Because of their blindness tragedy, loss and destruction will come upon them. Jesus realizes that even with his joyful entry into Jerusalem his popularity will not last and the people will turn against him.
Confronted with the future, Jesus still chooses to enter Jerusalem and journey toward the cross. The outcome—a restored relationship between God and humankind, and the establishment of a path for peace are worth the cost.
A PARADE OF PEACE
At the same time that Jesus was entering Jerusalem from the east side of the city, Pontius Pilate was entering from the west. The procession that accompanied Pilate was quite different than the ragtag group of disciples that followed Jesus. Pilate was pomp and circumstance. Pilate was preceded by Roman legions. Pilate’s parade was designed to impress, to lift up power and authority, and to cause anyone contemplating opposition to Rome to have second thoughts.
Seated on a colt, surrounded by unarmed followers, Jesus entered Jerusalem humbly. His was a parade of God’s grace and love. Peace was achieved not by intimidation, but rather by faithful obedience to God and service to one’s neighbor.
Even though, Jesus knew that the people of Jerusalem would be blind and deaf to his message, he persevered. The message was too important to abandon. The cross loomed before him, but Jesus continued to teach and demonstrate the way of peace. Alas, Jesus’ message was so counter intuitive and so unnatural that no one could believe that it would work. By the end of the week, it would look, on the surface, that they were correct. It would appear that power had defeated love and grace.
Peace is important to Luke. It is recorded in the angelic announcement to the shepherds—“and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” Luke is the only gospel writer to record that “peace” was included in the welcoming cries of the people—“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven. An expression of God’s kingdom is peace between God and humankind, peace between people—even those who are different, and peace between humankind and nature.
Luke and the other gospel writers pose Jesus against Rome. One represents peace and the other power. Readers of the gospels are given the choice of choosing Jesus or choosing Rome—choosing peace or choosing power. Though we would like to imagine that we would be the people who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem and followed him on his path of peace, we probably would have sided on the side of power and eventually yelled “Crucify him!”
We live in a society that worships power and strength. We take pride that we are the most powerful nation on earth—the new Rome. We spend a great deal of time—as do most people—seeking personal power, strength, and security. At the same time, we hear Jesus’ call to follow him on a path towards peace.