I love a parade…

 

Parades are connected with celebrations, in our time –

happy moments marking victories, or holidays.

So we are inclined to read accounts of Jesus making his way into Jerusalem,

with the Passover celebrations looming as ‘just another occasion to celebrate.

We imagine a triumphal parade, complete with palm branches and singing crowds –

some churches will re-create that parade this morning

but the truth about this morning’s parade is more sinister.

 

Jesus is making his way toward Jerusalem motivated by terrible purpose.

He is at odds with the authorities – he has baffled even his closest friends –

and this final stage of his journey leaves no doubt that he is making a fatal statement.

Jesus has taught and told the story of this new kingdom all around the territory.

His bold proclamation – the company he keeps – and the parables he offers

all propose a wildly different way of doing things.

And because of this, trouble is coming.

 

He has said so, more than once.

“Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’ But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” [1]

 

So let’s review – Luke has brought Jesus to the edge of the city,

telling tax collectors that they have found salvation[2], and he follows Zaccheus’ story  with a horrifying parable about a man who would be king [3].

His actions and his words have been deeply critical of the current kingdom –

a kingdom ruled by folks who are desperate

to maintain power in the region and over the people.

 

And Jesus’ entry to the city openly mocks those desires.

 

He borrows a colt – un-trained and therefore unpredictable –

and descends on the city surrounded by singing, waving and shouting.

 

It is the opposite of an impressive sight;

this parade is laughable, given the reality of the power that controls the city,

but Jesus point is apparently made.

The Pharisees are nervous.  Too much attention is being drawn to the crowd –

by the crowd.

“Teacher, order your disciples to stop”, they say.

But there is no stopping this.

“…even the stones would shout out.” Jesus famously says,

Thus endeth the lesson – but the statement made by Jesus at this moment

continues to speak across time. –

 

Only at the cross, and then at the empty tomb, will Jesus make a bolder statement.

He has, by his teaching and his mock parade, declared to all who would listen

that the kingdom he proclaims – the kingdom God has promised –

has no use for the usual symbols of power, or the ‘ordinary’ trappings of authority.

 

***(the parable that precedes Luke’s telling of the palm parade,

suggests that the man who would be king will not stand for criticism,

is a singularly greedy, demanding overseer, whose mission is only to establish – without question – his personal power and authority.

Yet Jesus, proclaimed as “the king who comes in the name of the Lord” comes in humility (on a colt) surrounded by joy, rather than those who trembled before the return of the “king” in fear [4])

 

And so Jesus’ entry really is a triumphal one –

but the celebrations are muted, for the moment.

Jesus will triumph over the prevailing ideas, the prevailing fear,

But he arrives knowing that his presence (and the manner of his coming)

will provoke a negative response –

such is the price you pay for proclaiming freedom in the midst of oppression,

and joy in the face of fear –

 

But Jesus does all of this confident in the power of God,  not to protect him from harm,

but to prevail over the power that holds all people captive.

 

Sin, in all its forms, is about to be given a fatal blow

(not swept away/banished, but robbed of its power).

That includes the sin of pride – of greed – of oppression and judgement.

All the things that make people think they are strong

are diminished as Jesus makes his approach in humility –

and they are further frustrated by the power of God that sees Jesus raised from death.

 

 

All this is present in this morning’s parade,

though perhaps we choose not to see it.

Our celebrations will be interrupted by betrayal, abandonment and crucifixion –

The power of sin will not be overcome by waving and singing,

but the celebration is coming.

Those once ruled by sin will meet a new master,

And soon – very soon – the power of God shall be revealed

in ways that will leave the followers of Jesus speechless.

 

 


[1]  Luke 18: 31-34

[2] Luke 19: 1-10

[3] Luke 19: 11-27

[4] Luke 19:21

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