31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
April 9, 2017, Palm Sunday
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Three times. Three times, Jesus tells his disciples what is going to happen when they arrive in Jerusalem. Three times, the gospel of Luke says that Jesus tells his disciples that in Jerusalem, Jesus will be betrayed, handed over to the Gentiles, mocked, insulted, flogged and killed and on the third day rise. (Luke 9:222, 9:44, 18:31-33)
Jesus knows what awaits him in Jerusalem. We know what awaits Jesus in Jerusalem, but today, on this Palm Sunday, we push aside thoughts of pain and betrayal, thoughts of injustice, violence, and death.
Today, we enjoy the parade. We will wave our palms and shout “Hosanna. Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Today, we will sing and rejoice in Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
And it is triumphal and triumphant because we know what is coming. We know that despite the betrayal and suffering, after the pain and humiliation, that God, through Jesus Christ, will have the final say.
We know what is coming. Resurrection and new life are coming, The promise of God’s unconditional love and salvation is coming.
This entrance into Jerusalem is triumphal and triumphant because we know what is coming, and this entrance is also ironic.
As God shows us over and over again, God’s ways are not our ways. The last shall be first. The humble shall be exalted. The meek shall inherit the earth. The stone that the builders rejected shall become the cornerstone, holding up the entire structure.
God’s ways are not our ways. God’s victory, God’s peace does not look like the victory and peace of the world, like the victory and peace of the Roman Empire.
The Romans were very successful at keeping the peace throughout their Empire, and they did it through tyranny, violence, and fear. They heavily taxed the people, keeping them on the edge of survival. They beat, flogged, and or crucified anyone who posed the slightest threat to their power. They marched through the streets on their horses, with their chariots and soldiers, flexing their military might as a constant reminder of who was in control. This was how the Roman Empire maintained peace.
Picture how Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem must have looked in comparison to those Roman military parades. Jesus’ triumphant parade was totally upside and backward from what a victory parade should look like. His multitude of disciples would have been small potatoes in comparison to the legions of Roman soldiers. They carried no spoils of war to show their dominance. And Jesus rode along, not on a chariot, not even on a horse – but on a colt, a baby horse.
This triumphant parade must have looked comical. A passerby might have laughed it off as they watched this grown man riding on a baby horse, his feet dragging along the ground, but the Pharisees were not laughing.
The Pharisees saw it as a parody that openly mocked the Romans. And in the loud shouts of the disciples, they heard a challenge to the Emperor and the Empire. Every time Jesus’ disciples shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”, the Pharisees heard, “Blessed is King Jesus – we shall not be moved!” And every time the disciples cried, “Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”, the Pharisees heard, “Peace in the highest heaven-we shall not be moved!” (Luke 19:38, workingpreacher.org, Barbara Lundblad)
The Pharisees were not laughing as they saw this parade pass by, because the Pharisees knew all too well how the Romans kept peace. The Pharisees order Jesus to quiet his disciples, to shut them up, make them stop, because the Pharisees will do just about anything to keep the fragile peace, even if it means perpetuating a culture of fear and intimidation.
To quote Martin Luther King, Jr., the Pharisees did not understand that “Peace cannot be kept by force” The Pharisees did not understand that God’s ways are not our ways. The Pharisees did not understand the things that really make for peace.
And it makes Jesus weep. Jesus weeps for the Pharisees; Jesus weeps for the city of Jerusalem; Jesus weeps for the people of Israel, because Jesus knows what could be possible for them – true and lasting peace, peace built on understanding and justice, peace that comes only from depending fully on God.
Jesus knows what is possible for them, and Jesus weeps because he knows what their choice will be.
This very week, they will choose a peace built on fear and injustice, a peace built on violence and intimidation. And their choice will destroy them. Their enemies will destroy them, crushing them to the ground. They will not leave one stone upon another. (Luke 18:44). In the end, there will be no peace. There never is, when it is achieved through force and injustice.
What about us? Does Jesus weep for us?
What are the ways we seek to achieve peace?
Do we seek conformity? Do we hide in denial, ignoring injustice? Do we silence all but the voices that agree with us? Do we use fear and intimidation, threats and manipulation, to maintain power and a tenuous peace? Do we perpetuate the status quo even when we know it will lead to our destruction?
What about us? Do we know the things that really make for peace?
The Romans thought they would maintain their empire, maintain the peace, through violence and military might. The Pharisees thought they would maintain their power, maintain the peace, through rules and order, obedience and silence. Neither worked – because you cannot achieve peace through force and intimidation. You cannot achieve peace through control or denial, material wealth or any of ways of the world we try, in an attempt to gain peace.
You can only achieve peace, lasting peace, through God – by seeking God’s face, by resting in God’s presence, by trusting in God’s care.
God’s ways are not our ways – so stop seeking the ways of the world. Stop listening to those things that tie you up in knots. Stop being afraid of those who wish to demean or control you. Stop thinking that if you are just silent and go along that everything will be all right. These are not the things that make for peace.
You are the child of the God Most High. The One who loves you beyond belief is also the One who created the Universe, the One who conquered even death, the One for whom all things are possible.
If you want peace, lasting peace in your life and in the world, seek God. Seek God every day. Seek God in every moment. Trust God to lead you, and the peace that passes all understanding with be yours, this day and forevermore.