A Choice of Two Kingdoms
A Choice of Two Kingdoms
On Palm Sunday Jesus provides a clear choice for us on who to follow.
The powers of empire or the kingdom of God. It is a stark contrast that is provided as we enter into Holy Week. It is a choice that will test our loyalties and will require us to ask question of ourselves. We must reckon with what and where we find value in the world.
Scripture: Luke 19: 28-40
A Choice of Two Kingdoms
Jesus scholars Marcus Borg and John Crossan give a riveting image with which to begin: there were two procession that Passover week. From the west came Pilate drape in the gaudy glory of imperial power: horses, chariots, and gleaming armour. He moved in with the Roman army at the beginning of Passover week to make sure nothing go out of hand. Insurrection was in the air with the memory of God’s deliverance of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt.
From the east came another procession, a commoner’s procession: Jesus in ordinary robe riding on a young donkey. The careful preparations suggest that Jesus has planned a highly ritualized symbolic prophetic act. Luke has in mind the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9-10, the coming of a new kind of king, a king of peace who will dismantle the weaponry of war.
As Jesus enters, a ‘whole multitude of the disciples,’ throng around, spread their cloaks on the road, and lift loud their praise: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” King has been added to the Hallel Psalm they sing.
So we have a clash of kingdoms: Caesar or Christ. Caesar’s kingdom is based on domination and ruthless power, the kind of kingship Jesus refused when tempted in the wilderness. The kingdom of God Jesus preached is based on justice, mercy, and the love of God. We have our choice: Pax Christi or Pax Romana. Our challenge is to show how the gospel of the kingdom has political implications but transcends our everyday political loyalties.
Welcome to Palm Sunday, welcome to the conclusion of the story we read on Transfiguration Sunday. When Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah on the mountain top. They had a conversation about Jesus’ departure, his exodus. Today, on Palm Sunday Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. Just as Pilate and the powers of empire arrives, so does Jesus. His exodus has come to a conclusion.
This is the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry and it begins in Jerusalem and such an entry is likely to make Jesus a target. I wonder what it felt like for Jesus to enter into Jerusalem one last time?
If you will recall in previous weeks the Pharisees had warned Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him. But there is Jesus riding into Jerusalem with royal pretense and as we know it brings down the wrath of those in power. Jesus will be brought before the Sandherin, the religious establishment. He will be brought before Herod the puppet King. Finally, he will be brought before Pilate the Governor of these lands who wields the full power of the Roman Empire.
Though Pilate will try to wash his hands clean, each will find Jesus guilty.
But Jesus will not be put off his course. He will not turn away. Jesus brushes aside the warnings and with the final words of our passage he proclaims his purpose, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
We know that those who are praising his name now will turn on him within the week. Those who are declaring him Messiah and shouting out, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” These same people will shout “Crucify, crucify!” by the time the week ends.
How fickle they were. If you think we are different pay more attention to the news cycle in our own time. People today aren’t so different.
For now, we stop and pause in the moment. We focus on the joy that those present must have felt.
Scott Hoezee talks about joy this way, “Joy for Christian people is a last feeling, not a first. Christian joy is refined and thoughtful because it has passed through death. Next Sunday we will celebrate Easter and we will do it from the midst of a war-ravaged world. In one sense it is awfully surprising that when the Son of God came to this earth, he died so hideous a death in order to save us. At the same time, however, given the bloody state of affairs we so routinely encounter in this world, it seems also inevitable that God would save us in precisely the way he did” (reference).
Today we join the crowd, we shout Hosanna’s, we bask in the joy of the moment. Today we witness the Messiah, the Son of God enter the holy city of Jerusalem. We join the crowd and observe how Jesus will confront the powers of empire and establish a new order based on God’s values.
Jesus enters Jerusalem and he stands up for the values of the kingdom of God. Jesus will not be silenced.
Will we? Will our voices be muted just as the crowds voice grew quiet over the course of the week. At the end of the week will we stand with the Peace of Christ or the Peace of Rome? Will we choose empire and the way things have always been? Or will we choose the peace of Christ and strive for something different in our world?
Will injustice, intolerance, division, hatred and selfishness win out in our hearts? Or will love, peace, mercy, righteousness and grace be written into our lives?
Will we continue to speak and advocate for these changes in our lives and the lives of those around us? Will we continue to declare the kingdom of God or will Christ need to command the stones to speak due to our silence?
Holy week, the week we are about to enter is not about arguing that these things did happen. It is not about proving that Jesus was a real person. That Jesus was the Son of God. It’s not about finding definitive proof that he died and then was resurrected. We don’t need to prove these things to the world. Holy week is about reflecting on how those events from 2000 years ago affect our lives today. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.