This Sunday, Palm Sunday, is the time for remembering Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for the last week of his life. It’s the official beginning of Holy Week. We all know how the Palm Sunday story unfolded from there: Jesus entered the city on the back of a donkey. People spread their cloaks on the road in front of him and they lined the route waving palm branches.
What we may not know was that there was a second, more prominent procession entering the city from its opposite side. Because Passover always evoked a kind of liberation spirit among the Jews who were under the thumb of Roman occupation, the Roman åsoldiers always went there during Passover to “keep the peace.” This came in the form of a show of loud, brassy, grandiose strength meant to intimidate and remind all who witnessed it who was in charge. It was a loud, grand-scale parade of warhorses dressed in armor, foot soldiers beating drums, with everyone stamping their feat, shouting and chanting. It was a big demonstration of the power of Rome.
Most scholars agree that Jesus intentionally timed his own entrance into Jerusalem to coincide with this Roman parade, coming in from the east as the Roman army entered town from the west. It was meant to be an outright mockery — a thumbing of the nose to imperial Rome and the so-called Pax Romana — peace enforced by power.
Jesus’ parade had a different message about power. He entered with humility, riding on a lowly donkey. His message was that the Kingdom of God is very different from the Kingdom of Rome. Try to place yourself in the sandals of the residents of Jerusalem and all the faithful making their pilgrimage for Passover.
Which parade would capture your attention?
How would it captivate your imagination?
Which one would impress you most?
In the thirteenth chapter of John, we read the story of Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples. He took a basin of water and with it he washed the disciples’ feet, demonstrating what it means to serve others. He said to his disciples, “If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do.” It is the basin of service.
In the twenty seventh chapter of Matthew, we read about another basin, also used during Holy Week. When the crowd demanded that Jesus be crucified, the governor, Pontius Pilate took a basin of water and he washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It’s your problem.”
Two basins used within hours of each other: Jesus’ basin of service; Pontius Pilate’s basin of apathy.
A good question for us to ask ourselves during Holy Week is, “Which basin do I most often choose?”
In mostly small ways, but sometimes in large ways, we make both of these decisions over and over, every day of our lives.
Perhaps the question for Holy Week is what do I choose most consistently in my life?
The parade of Rome and all that it symbolizes?
Or the parade of Jesus and all that it means?
The basin of Pilate’s apathy?
Or the basin of Jesus’ servanthood?
Nobody bats 1000, of course. We all make mistakes — and choices we regret. Even so, I think it’s most important to remember that we do have a choice — and it’s the choice we make consistently that matters most.
I look forward to exploring these questions with you this Sunday in the Sanctuary.
Luke 19:28-48 Common English Bible (CEB)
After Jesus said this, he continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’” Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said.
As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
They replied, “Its master needs it.” They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it. As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road.
As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. They said,
“Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”
Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!”
He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”
As Jesus came to the city and observed it, he wept over it. He said, “If only you knew on this of all days the things that lead to peace. But now they are hidden from your eyes. The time will come when your enemies will build fortifications around you, encircle you, and attack you from all sides. They will crush you completely, you and the people within you. They won’t leave one stone on top of another within you, because you didn’t recognize the time of your gracious visit from God.”
When Jesus entered the temple, he threw out those who were selling things there. He said to them, “It’s written, My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a hideout for crooks.”
Jesus was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests, the legal experts, and the foremost leaders among the people were seeking to kill him. However, they couldn’t find a way to do it because all the people were enthralled with what they heard.
John 13:1-17 (Common English Bible)
Before the Festival of Passover, Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully.
Jesus and his disciples were sharing the evening meal. The devil had already provoked Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew the Father had given everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was returning to God. So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but you will understand later.”
“No!” Peter said. “You will never wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with me.”
Simon Peter said, “Lord, not only my feet but also my hands and my head!”
Jesus responded, “Those who have bathed need only to have their feet washed, because they are completely clean. You disciples are clean, but not every one of you.” He knew who would betray him. That’s why he said, “Not every one of you is clean.”
After he washed the disciples’ feet, he put on his robes and returned to his place at the table. He said to them, “Do you know what I’ve done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, because I am. If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do. I assure you, servants aren’t greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them. Since you know these things, you will be happy if you do them.