Going Up To Jerusalem - Reflections 4-7-2022

Texts for Palm Sunday
April 3, 2022

Zechariah 9:9-10
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 19:28-40

Luke, who carefully wrote an “orderly account” of the Gospel (see Luke 1:3-4) ties this scene back to Jesus’ birth announcement via the heavenly host (see Luke 2:14). Note the multitude of disciples parallels the multitude of angels. And the message offered by the multitudes hold an interesting twist. Angels: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth; Disciples on Palm/Cloak Sunday: Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” In a couple more verses Jesus says the stones will shout out…. heaven calls to earth and earth calls to heaven. Luke is really an awesome author.

Today’s Gospel story is a threshold to the story we hear as we move through Holy Week. By the end of this week, Jesus will be dead in the tomb. This parade is not just a happy, spontaneous event. Jesus has entered Jerusalem and he has told us that he will die here. And the crowd, cheering Jesus shouts “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, in their book The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Final Days in Jerusalem, write that Jesus was killed as a political threat against Rome. He did die on a Roman cross. They start their book describing a Roman imperial power procession entering Jerusalem:

…A visual panoply of imperial power: cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagle mounted on poles, sun glinting on metal and gold. Sounds; the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of bridles,  the beating of drums. the swirling of dust. 
The eyes of the silent onlookers, some curious, some awed, some resentful. (p.3)

The reader is invited to imagine Pilate arriving in Jerusalem to keep Rome’s thumb on the people during the festival of Passover which celebrates freedom from being under the thumb of Egypt. Now read today’s text: Donkey, tattered cloaks, cheers. For the ever-present Roman guard, the question is whether this is a planned mockery of the imperial procession or does it just seem to be that? Those “some Pharisees” who try to hush the crowd may believe that as well - Let’s not draw unnecessary attention.

Some Pharisees and others in the cheering section may have recognized the prophet’s description in Zechariah 9:9-17 of the king arriving triumphant and victorious to command peace to the nations and save his people by something that sounds a little bit like a military victory. You know – celebrating freedom from being under the thumb of power. Really, let’s not draw any more attention.

I think even those people changed their minds about Jesus by the end of the week. Dying on the cross is not very king-like. He’s not who we expected.

But God’s ideas are bigger than ours. Bigger than we can ever imagine on our own. 
God wants to bring us out of whatever enslaves us to freedom.

God wants to call us to return from exile.

God wants to call us out of death into life.

Next week, we will have a mini-post on our Website with a verse from the story of Holy Week and a reflection question each day.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245