It was the beginning of Passover as Jesus and his friends headed to Jerusalem for the to celebrate Israel's liberation from Egypt. Word spread that He was on His way to the city. People ran out to meet this Jesus who was taking the land by storm, with his radical teachings of love; turning the other cheek, forgiveness, mercy, peace. In a word - truth.
Jesus led this parade riding in from the East on the back of a donkey to the crowd's cheers and songs of Hosanna! A powerful fulfillment of Zechariah's prophetic picture:
“Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion!
Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem!
Your king is coming!
a good king who makes all things right,
a humble king riding a donkey,
a mere colt of a donkey.
I’ve had it with war—no more chariots in Ephraim,
no more war horses in Jerusalem,
no more swords and spears, bows and arrows.
He will offer peace to the nations,
a peaceful rule worldwide,
from the four winds to the seven seas. (Ze 9:9-10, MSG)
History tells us of another parade that day, on the other side of town, coming in from the West. This annual parade was led by Pilate* - the representative of Roman Empire in the region, riding a stallion and leading a procession of armed soldiers in a show of military might. It was an intimidating reminder to the swelling numbers of visitors to Jerusalem that insurrection would not be tolerated.
Two very different parades. Two very different kingdoms.
I don't think Jesus' parade was a coincidence. I think Jesus' parade was a very clear declaration that He was Lord, not Rome’s emperor and that His Kingdom was something entirely different. Instead of a kingdom of fear, intimidation and violence, Jesus came in the opposite spirit as a humble King with a message of love, truth and peace. He recognized that the real enemy was not the Roman occupiers, rather the darkness of death and sin which has plagued humankind since the Fall. He understood that death and sin are overcome with divine, perfect love. He understood that part-and-parcel of the salvation He came preaching and demonstrating, was the power of the God-who-loves to transform us into new creations thereby producing transformed communities and a transformed world.
We need to allow this Jesus to shape the way we read and interpret scriptures and direct how we live in everyday situations; in peace and conflict alike. Jesus empowers us by His Spirit to live in the opposite spirit of violence, intimidation, and revenge. He calls us out of the practice of sacred violence and into lives of radical love, peacemaking, and nonviolence. Do not confuse this with do-nothing, heads in the sand pacifism, for perfect love is no toothless tiger. It does however look like courageously laying your life down for others. Standing in love inspired defiance of the spirit of the age without becoming like it. As we wrestle with terrorism, war, violence, and injustices of all kinds, we need to consider the Jesus of the Gospels seriously and ask ourselves "which parade are we attending?"
* Borg, Marcus J, and Crossan, John Dominic. The Last Week. What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem.