Jeff Cavins reflects on the readings for Palm Sunday. These readings recall the story that is at the center of our faith.
There can be little doubt that Jesus intended to convey a message by the way He entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday. Because of their continual occupation by foreign powers, the hope among many of Jewish people was for a political Messiah, a military King, who would restore the Golden Age of an Independent Israel, as under the reign of King David’. Many of the people greeting Jesus hopefully shouted, “Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David.” Jesus however shows that He totally rejects this concept of Messiahship by deliberately riding into Jerusalem on a colt which He had asked two of His disciples to fetch in advance.
By this action, He meant to reflect the Prophecy of Zechariah that, ”A king would be coming to Jerusalem, humble and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey”. The Prophecy continues that this king, riding on a donkey, will banish war from the land with no more war horses, chariots or bows, commanding peace to the nations, as a King of Peace. This was His Kingship to bring about a vision of a Kingdom of His Father. A Kingdom of gentleness, love, peace and harmony.
Contrast this with the entrance of Pontius Pilate into Jerusalem from his base in Caesarea, probably around the same time, but though through a different Gate. This was an armed military procession with horses, standards and troops, reflecting the temporal power of an Empire which had subdued people by force and kept order and subjection in the same brutal way. Pilate was there to keep control during the crowded festival period and to represent the Emperor, who to Romans was the “Son of God”. This title, “Son of God” was also used in the ceremony to crown a new King of Israel as illustrated in the Psalms. Significantly, although the Gospel writers refer to Jesus as the Son of God, Jesus did not use that title Himself because of the political connotations it carried with it. However, Jesus was welcomed by the crowds as a King with the waving of palms and the putting down of cloaks to ease His way, as was the custom when rulers approached a city.
Later in the week, some of the same crowd were to see Jesus presented as a mock King with the crown of thorns mimicking the emperor’s wreath. But at the conclusion of Mark’s Gospel, the Centurion who had been in charge of Jesus’ crucifixion was able to say, ” surely this Man was the Son Of God”
(Reflection by David Morson)
“Jesus, you are my King. May I serve you every day of my life.”
As you go through Holy Week, keep Jesus’ kingship in mind. Today he sits at the right hand of the Father, reigning in glory. But he is also the servant King who loved you enough to die for you and who still loves you enough to forgive every sin.