Triumphal Train Wreck

Thursday, March 22, 2018
Reading: Mark 11:1-11

What we call the Palm Sunday story (or the triumphal entry into Jerusalem) is the promising beginning to what becomes the apparent slow-motion train-wreck of a week: the conspiracy against as well as the betrayal, desertion, denial and crucifixion of Jesus.

But the train-wreck happens in the middle and end of the week. When people can't or don't attend Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, then the move from Palm Sunday to Easter might feels like a smooth transition of sorts.

Jesus triumphally enters Jerusalem with shouts of "Hosanna!" one Sunday and defeats death the next. What can't this guy do?

This blindspot in the story is why many churches either switch over to a Passion Sunday theme some years or continue the story beyond the parade. It's important for people to confront how the Jesus story hits rock bottom.

Between Palm Sunday and Easter, foes do their dirty work; friends fail him; the purported Messiah, who is supposed to throw the oppression of Rome off Judea's back, instead gets forty lashes on his back before being executed by the Empire. 

On Palm Sunday, there are two levels of irony going on: 

For one, Jesus is poking fun at the tradition of kings who enter into a city as a conquerer on a horse. He is mocking military and political leaders who make everything about themselves but who are the same as you and me. Jesus can make fun of them because, well, he's Jesus.

We can look back at the event and praise Jesus because we know the ending.

The other irony is that the crowds, who are fickle, and the disciples, who should know better, don't realize that Jesus is signing his own death warrant by entering the city. They don't see the train-wreck coming.

But the train-wreck is what makes Easter what it is.

Without the Passion story--how Jesus tragically dies--then Easter just looks like God's triumph over death. That's a great achievement unto itself in theory.

But with the Passion story, Easter also reveals that the resurrection at some level redeems the very people who actually fail Jesus, friends and foes: Peter; James, John, et al.; the religious and Roman establishment; even Judas seems to find some grace through Easter.

Not that what they did wasn't human brokenness at its worst--but on Easter, God's love seems bigger than their treachery or failure. No human action, intentional or unintentional, separates us from the love of God on Easter.

I love the Palm Sunday story because it reveals that we are fickle toward God's love or oblivious to the ways that God is pained by our failings. But even more,

I love thes story because while I am unaware of the ways that I will fail God, I see that God, knowing our failures to come, still loves me and all of us, and joyfully journeys with us all the same.

-Rev. Adam




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