It was not the only parade that day. The parade that we were in was “the other one,” the subversive one, the one that didn’t make the news.
The “real” parade was for the Roman governor of Judea, as he made his triumphal trip to Jerusalem for the Passover. Jerusalem was no small town – about 50,000 people on a regular day; during the Passover festival it grew to over 200,000. Who’s going to notice a ragged man on a donkey? The real parade was for Pontius Pilate, and it was, in the words of Dominic and Crossan, a procession befitting the Roman empire:
A visual panoply of imperial power: cavalry on horses, foot solders, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun glinting on metal and gold. Sounds: the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of bridles, the beating of drums. The swirling of dust. The eyes of the silent onlookers, some curious, some awed, some resentful.
We remember that in this world, the world of the Roman Empire, the emperor was not simply the ruler of Rome; he was the Son of God. For the empire’s Jewish subjects, Pilate’s procession signaled more than a military threat. It was the embodiment of a rival theology. Heresy on horseback. (background from Debie Thomas, journeywithjesus.net, 3/23/2015)
Pilate’s procession was heresy to those of us who believe in one God, heresy to those who worship God and not human kind.
The triumphal entry of Jesus must have looked pretty sparse, weak – like some sort of joke about those in power. It was ironic … and heresy to the Roman empire. Heresy to the Empire was to believe in God and not Caesar. Heresy was to believe that someone else was the Son of God. Heresy was:
Healing the blind
Healing – anyone – on the Sabbath
Overturning the tables on the entire Temple system
Anything that threatened those in power
Jesus was a threat. He died, as Debie Thomas writes, “because he unflinchingly fulfilled the will of God.”
And that’s where we come in. Was our procession this morning subversive? Dangerous? Noticed – by anyone? I wonder if we recognize what we are doing on Palm Sunday …
How easily we move from saying “Hosanna!” to
“We have no king but Caesar!”
“Crucify him! Crucify him.”
We live in a place in which we can say out loud that we do not like the government, our leaders, our church, or our practices. We have not fallout from our beliefs, threatening or heretical or dangerous or
There is fallout. It might not happen in a way that is visible to the world, but when we don’t practice our beliefs,
When we stay in bed too many Sundays
Skip prayer too many days
Forget to proclaim that Jesus is Lord
And God is our God,
Our hearts change.
As we hang our Savior on a tree
And neglect to feed our souls
With the only food that matters.
Be uncomfortable this week.
Think about what God we proclaim “with our lips and in our lives.”
Wash the feet of those who are fortunate enough to have them.
Adore the cross on which we hung Jesus.
All of these things “put us in our place,” if you will. We remind ourselves that we are not in charge of this week or this life. And yet we live in a very privileged place. We are free to choose.
Choose, this week, “the other parade.” Choose to be with your congregation, your family in Christ.
Choose the subversive, radical, freeing chorus of “crucify him!”
That we might also hear the heart-wrenching cry of Jesus,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The silent expectation of a rock-hewn tomb
The arms that reach down to us and lift us, finally, to the cross
that destroys death.
Welcome to “the other” parade.