“Rejoice greatly, Oh Daughter Zion, Shout aloud, Oh Daughter Jerusalem Lo, your King comes to you, Triumphant and victorious is he Humble, riding on a donkey; On a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)
Things are not always as they seem.
Today, on ‘Palm Sunday’ we celebrate with the crowds who saw the joyful arrival of Jesus with their own eyes. We, ‘The Church’ easily–even unthinkingly–adopt the Church’s traditional language for this day: The “Triumphal Entry.”
Mark describes it as anything but. Riding into town on a donkey in a farcical re-enactment of Zephaniah’s prophecy, Jesus’ arrival in the Capital was viewed as defiant mockery by the crowd, as blasphemy by the Priesthood, and as rebellion by the Romans.
In the cultural, religious and political tinderbox of occupied Jerusalem this tawdry ‘Triumphal’ parade was viewed as the lit fuse of insurrection. Everyone agreed that It must be stopped. The ‘Triumphal Entry’ became a turning point, from prophet to prisoner, from messiah to martyr, from saviour to sacrifice.
Within a week: the cheering crowd became a jeering mob, the sage and venerable priests became murderous conspirators, and the Roman invaders became the heroes and defenders of civil society.
Within a week, the jeering mob demanded retribution, the conspiring clerics demanded expiation and the calloused oppressors required submission. A public example must be made.
Despised and rejected by all, Jesus was no longer seen as a Prophet, Priest, or Protector. He had become a Problem. Everyone’s Problem. Public execution became the preferred solution.
How does public opinion of ‘Religion’ impact my private faith? Do I change my chant when I change my crowd?
Faithful God, forgive my unfaithfulness. Some days, like Peter, I dare to walk on water. Some nights, like Peter, I deny, I run, I hide.
Today, I believe.
Help my unbelief so that I can stand in faith both in the Joy of the Triumphal Procession and beneath the Ruthless Glare of Public Opinion.