“Let the same mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”
Not my words, but yours, Oh Lord I pray. Amen!
Some historians say that there were two processions into Jerusalem that day when Jesus rode in on a donkey to the chants of Hosanna, King of Kings. Indeed it is quite possible that Pontius Pilate arrived in Jerusalem that same day. He normally governed from the costal city of Caesarea Maritima, but as was the practice of several Roman governors, he came to Jerusalem for the Jewish feasts. However, he came not out of piety or reverence. No he was there to smother any possible revolt.
So, we have two processions, Jesus and Pilate. One procession was humble, while the other militant. Jesus rode in on a donkey, incarnating the prophetic proclamation of Zechariah 9:6. It was a peasant procession, common folk walking along kicking up dust with a homeless preacher on a mule. Now, y’all, I’ve seen my share of mules in my day. Once I even had the “honor” of marching in the mule day parade in Columbia, TN. I assure you mules are anything but fancy or awe inspiring. Humble might be an over statement.
Pilate’s procession was a display of Roman military might. A Roman Imperial procession was an intimidating sight, to say the least. Powerful war horses clad in armor and draped in red led the way under the Imperial Standard. The standard was carried symbolizing that all that rode under it were the rulers of all that it passed.
One procession was non-violent, the other was built for violence. Jesus entered with the unarmed and the unwashed, the poor and the common waving palms. Now, while palms were traditionally waved for a royal procession, and indeed this was a royal procession, no one has ever been killed by being hit over the head with a palm phran.
Pilate’s procession was built from and for violence. It was a moving expression of Rome’s imperial theology: that Rome was ordained by the gods to subdue the entire world and provide peace through victory. Make no doubt about it, these were the best trained, best equipped, battletested troops in the world of their day. They could and did inflict great violence swiftly and without remorse.
Today we are given a choice. Which procession will we join: the one of Jesus or of Pilate, of peace or war, God’s Kingdom or the Empire? Indeed, we have this choice everyday. However, on this day, the choice is highlighted by our procession with palms to begin the service. But, while we might automatically say that we choose Jesus’ procession, our liturgy this morning highlights for us as well that we are just as likely to pick the way of violence. For even though we shouted hosanna at the beginning of the service a few moments ago we shouted crucify him as well. Our liturgy today highlights for us that the odds are 6 to 5 and pick’em that on any given day anyone in this room might pick the way of violence over the way of peace, the empire over the Kingdom of God.
My brothers and sisters we are invited this week to immerse ourselves in the passion of Christ, the suffering servanthood of Jesus our Lord, so that we might be transformed into his way of peace. I invite you not just to the altar today, not just to pick the peaceful procession today for mere moments, but to this entire week of devotion and worship. I invite you to the Oasis Tenebrae Service Wednesday night, to was feet like Jesus did on Maundy Thursday, to remember the world at the darkest hour like Jesus did on Good Friday, and to experience the creative reading of the salvation history at the Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday in expectation of the Glorious Easter next Sunday. My brothers and sisters, come walk with Christ. Amen!