Sunday 5 April 2020
“Two processions entered Jerusalem on a spring day in the year 30. It was the beginning of the week of Passover, the most sacred week of the Jewish year…One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession. From the east, Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives, cheered by his followers… On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Idumea, Judea and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers”. J Dominic Crossan and Marcus J Borg, The Last Week, Harper One, P2)
Thus did the scholar Dominic Crossan imagine the events of Palm Sunday – Jesus coming from Bethany in the east, mounted on a donkey, – Pilate, coming from Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast in the west, just as Roman governors always came to Jerusalem to be there at festival times when trouble was most likely.
Jesus procession is not an accidental event. He seems to have planned it to happen, In the words of Oxford academic George Caird, it ‘looks like a planned political demonstration’. Today, we might call it street theatre.
For Jewish observers of the time, there could be no mistaking what Jesus was claiming. Just as it had been written in the Book of the Prophet Zechariah: “Look, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey”. Jesus is claiming divine kingship, just as the military might of Rome is claiming the same thing for Caesar as it approaches from the opposite direction.
This clash of kingdoms will play out to its bitter climax during the following week. Jesus’ crucifixion will make it appear that the power of Rom has won. But his resurrection, his vindication by God, will demonstrate just which kingdom will endure.
This Holy Week offers us a chance to grow into the kingdom of God and to reject the powers that foolishly threaten it.
“Look, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey”.
Archdeacon Allan Paulsen