4.14.19 Luke 19:28-40 Today marks the beginning of the end. The palms are waving. The coats are laid out on the ground. Miraculously a colt who has not yet been tamed is willing to carry an adult on his back down the hill into the city. People are cheering and rejoicing. It has all appearances of a parade. But we know what lies ahead. A meal with a traitor. An arrest. A mock trial. The death penalty on a hill.
Jesus has had his face set toward Jerusalem since the transfiguration back in chapter 9 of this gospel. For 10 chapters he has been on this journey, traveling, teaching, preaching, getting his message across. And now this is the beginning of the end. Jerusalem was to be his final stop. He knew what lay ahead as he looked down upon the city in the valley from the Mount of Olives.
Not everyone in the crowd understood what lay ahead of him. Very few would have really gotten the whole picture. Some might have simply been going along with the group, heading to Jerusalem for the high holy days of Passover like people flock to DC for the cherry blossoms and the parade. Some may have accompanied him thinking now was the time for inciting a rebellion, the chance had come to overthrow the Roman powers that be and install a new, Jewish, king. Then there was the other crowd, gathered on the other side of the city, awed by those who were marching into the city from the west, riding majestic horses with Pilate, the Roman governor, carrying weapons and showing off the military power and presence—making it very clear that the governor would allow no rebellions during the Passover time.
Two parades. One day. The might of the Roman rulers on horseback coming from the west and the humble Jesus on a colt, never ridden, coming from the east. It is a visible and highly symbolic clash of kingdoms—the kingdom of Rome and the kingdom of Jesus the Christ, one kingdom based on oppression and one kingdom based on peace, the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God. There had to be an underlying sense of dis-ease on the part of any who were paying attention. How would the end of this story play out? Which kind of ruler would be victorious?
Luke connects us back to the Old Testament prophets—remembering the words of Zechariah: “Lo, your king comes to you: triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” What kind of a king rides a borrowed colt or a donkey? What kind of a king plans so precisely the way he will enter the city, making specific arrangements for his own travel on a colt that had not yet been ridden? How is a king humble and victorious at the same time? What kind of king is this, after all?
The king of peace. One who marches to a different drummer. Look at the greeting that bookends this life of Jesus: Peace. When he is born, heaven proclaims: Peace on earth! As he prepares to die, earth proclaims: Peace in heaven! It is like the response we use every Sunday in sharing the peace, but on a cosmic scale. Not the kind of peace forced by military might, with soldiers clamping down on any whispers of rebellion in the city. But the kind of peace God brings, shalom that means wholeness, hope and justice for all.
Some Pharisees were uncomfortable with all the shouting, the cheering. Maybe they were afraid Pilate’s soldiers marching into the city would take notice of this motley crew coming in from the east. Maybe they were afraid they would be interpreted as rebels who wanted to put their own king in Pilate’s place, resulting in harm for the Jewish people in Jerusalem. “Tell them to stop!” Jesus replies with words that seem to echo another Old Testament prophet– Habbakuk… “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout out!” God’s truth can not be silenced. Injustice and oppression will not be victorious.
As we remember the parade into the city from the east… I invite you to take some time this morning to gather with your connect groups to share a special Holy Week memory. Please be brief so that everyone will have time to share. When your group is finished, please quietly return to your seats.
BREAK: Connect Groups- Share a special Holy Week memory.
The End of the Beginning
I hope the memories you shared and heard in your connect group will help you to focus on the power of this week we call holy. Setting aside this time helps us to remember the steps Jesus took. I encourage you to make time this week to read the rest of the story from Luke chapters 20-23. Review again the ending actions, words and interactions as this part of the story comes to an end? This week we call holy also reminds us that the story is far from over. Jesus was born, lived, taught, and healed. That is the beginning of this story. The beginning ends with his death on a cross, a brutal capital punishment, a horribly painful way for any human being to die. But that is not the end. After his death the story continues. The story continues with the resurrection, the formation of gatherings of believers and the passing of the tasks of Jesus’ ministry of compassion, peace and justice into hands like ours. We are the continuation of this story of God’s love for the world. What better week to remember afresh our calling to be God’s hands and feet on the ground? What better week to celebrate the long and fruitful life of a saint like Kay Bayly?
Today simply marks the end of the beginning. As long as our feet remain on this earth, the story is not over. We continue to carry on Christ’s mission, to live out the story wherever we go. Thanks be to God. Amen.