In this celebration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, we hear words like “triumphant,” “King,” and “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord.”
Does this celebration of Palm Sunday have a triumphal edge to it? Are we honoring a king, as the world understands a king with all the trappings of privilege, comfort, and luxury?
What and who do we celebrate on this Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord?
The words of Philip Yancey, from his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, may help us in better understanding what and who we celebrate this day:
The triumphal entry has about it an aura of ambivalence
and as I read all the accounts together, what stands out to
me now is the slapstick nature of the affair.
I imagine a Roman officer galloping up to check on the disturbance.
He has attended processions in Rome, where they do it
right. The conquering general sits in a chariot of gold,
with stallions straining at the reins and wheel spikes
flashing in the sunlight. Behind him, officers in polished
armor display the banners captured from vanquished armies.
At the rear comes a ragtag procession of slaves and prisoners
in chains, living proof of what happens to those who defy Rome.
In Jesus’ triumphal entry, the adoring crowd makes up the
ragtag procession: the lame, the blind, the children, the peasants
from Galilee and Bethany. When the officer looks for the object
of their attention he spies a forlorn figure, weeping, riding on
no stallion or chariot but on the back of a baby donkey, a
borrowed coat draped across its backbone serving as his saddle.
Yes, there was a whiff of triumph on Palm Sunday, but
not the kind of triumph that might impress Rome and not the
kind that impressed crowds in Jerusalem for long either.
What manner of king was this?
As we begin this Holy Week, as we walk with Jesus and unite his Paschal Mystery to ours, let us reflect upon what kind of king we honor and for whom we give our lives.