Walking the line

Everyone loves a parade.  It is just so quaint, homey and welcome.  Think small-town marching band struting down the street with old men in too small cars doing precsion driving in funny hats.  For we who have basically known only peaceful lives in stable regimes, it is all fun and games when a parade comes to town.  But in a different time and circumstance a gathering on the street for the purposes of demonstation walks a  very fine line between these quaint scenes and the manifestation of unbridaled power if not carrying the potential for real violence to break out.  There is a thin layer of permits and permission that marks the difference between riot and celebration.

One wonders which side of this fine in the sand Jesus was walking on as he approached Jerusalem.  In what is the annual ritual of television bringing Jesus movies to the screen just in time for the Easter season, I watched a documentary last evening on The Last Days of Jesus (PBS).   In it, a number of historical Jesus scholars posited some alternate explanations and context for these days surrounding the political and social situation in Jerusalem and Rome around that time. Their notion was that Jesus was used as a pawn of a larger movement with Roman politcal society and that lead to his crucifixion.  While I remain unconvinced and unconvicted by their arguments, their offering of some of the possible context of what the happenings of Holy Week offers a good reminder to consider as we proceed toward the cross in these days: the Kingdom of God, however it is thought of, challenges the status quo.  And that always makes a difference, challenges norms, and can, ultimately, invite struggles.

For me, the question of these events of holy week-- the celebration of Palm Sunday,  the happens of the week, the memory of the meal, the workings of the trial, persecution, and death of our Lord-- are always the same.  What role do I play in this drama.  Am I like Peter, certain of the hope of the Messiah but unable to follow where he leads for want of fear?  Do I find myself in the crowds, all too ready to cheer a messiah who promises power, but ready to yell "Crucify" when disappointed, moved by the moment and the popular reality?  Or, more accurately, do I reside among those many unnamed disciple characters who came along the way, following the best I can, but unsure and uncertain by the end?  The truth is we are all these people and many more as we follow toward Jerusalem.

What about you?  How do you follow along?  What might it look like were our vision of the Kingdom living and being made people around us nervous?  How do we follow even now the one who stides into  the way of God full of confidence, full of challenge to the way that the world is and moves?  How do we too walk faithfully the line between the anticipation of the Kingdom and the challenge of the powers that be.

Matthew 21New International Version (NIV)


Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”


4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:


5 “Say to Daughter Zion,

    ‘See, your king comes to you,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,


“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]

“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”


11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”


Jesus at the Temple

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[e] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’[f]”


14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.


16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.


“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,


“‘From the lips of children and infants

    you, Lord, have called forth your praise’[g]?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.