“It is a period of civil wars in the galaxy. A brave alliance of underground freedom fighters has challenged the tyranny and oppression of the awesome galactic empire.”
There are very few times that “rebellion” comes up that I don’t think of Star Wars. That’s the whole story, right? A brave rebellion that is standing up to the evil empire. The empire is devoted to controlling the known universe through power and cruelty and fear, and the rebellion is seeking freedom that oppression.
Plus, you know, lightsabers and X-Wings and Storm Troopers and the Death Star.
We see stories of oppression and rebellion all over the place — it’s the narrative of countless fictional stories like Star Wars or the Hunger Games, it’s deeply embedded in human history … and it’s found just beneath the text that gets preached every year on the Sunday before Easter.
Jesus and his disciples are making their way into Jerusalem and have been met by a crowd that has gathered to greet them:
“Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields. Those in front of him were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!’” (Mark 11:8-10)
The crowd wanted to celebrate the coming of a king from the royal line of David that would bring Israel back to power. They wanted a general that would lead an army in a rebellion to overthrow the oppressive Roman empire. They wanted a sudden and violent and immediate upheaval of the powers that were. Even the disciples wanted to be in positions of power in the coming kingdom — not even a chapter earlier in Mark, James and John are found asking for places of privilege when Jesus brought a new order.
But what they got was not what they expected.
Instead of a rebellious king, they found Jesus to be a humble servant. He was a carpenter from nowhere, leading an odd collection of outcasts and fishermen. He was a teacher and a healer that preached a message of compassion and love and mercy and forgiveness, that said the least will become great and that everyone is welcome at the table.
We imagine rebellions as the stories where we get to be the heroes, where we are the good guys and if we win, we are free. But that’s not how this story goes. This isn’t a story of ruling an empire or even overthrowing oppression, it’s a story of redemption, of breaking bread together and serving one another — it is the story that speaks the truth that everything has been made new, that everyone belongs in the kingdom of God and that there is nothing we can do to earn it or lose it. Because we aren’t the hero of this story, Jesus is.
This Palm Sunday, remember that we are not at the center of this story. Remember that we are called to live like Jesus lived — to eat and laugh and pray together, to seek out the lost and embrace the outcast, to put aside what so many of us put at the center of our lives and focus on the things that are really important. And most importantly, remember that you are loved just as you are — by us, by this church and by God.
Associate Director of Youth Ministries