Last year was the first time we took Dean to see a parade. It wasn’t just any parade. It was the annual firemen’s parade in Culpeper, Virginia. You may or may not know that my son Dean is obsessed with firetrucks. I thought it was just a phase when he was two, but every day he asks to watch firetrucks on T.V. and he plays with the many firetrucks he has acquired. My favorite part of the parade was seeing his face light up as all the different firetrucks came down the road. He was just as excited when he saw the last firetruck as when he saw the first firetruck. Parades are a fun way to celebrate and be part of a community. It is a day when the whole community puts aside their differences and celebrates something they have in common.
In our Scripture for today from the gospel of Luke, we hear about a parade of sorts. It was the second parade that had taken place in Jerusalem in a short amount of time. Reverend Todd and Jennifer Pick describe the first parade that took place: “As Roman imperialism crushed and oppressed God’s people, Pilate made the trip into town to uphold law and order. Pilate must have entered the city in a procession of pomp complete with war horses and an armored army.”[i]
The people of Jerusalem probably did not celebrate this parade. They may have been interested to see it take place, but the feeling left with the parade would be fear and not excitement. This was an officer of the law they had to follow, whether they wanted to or not or there would be extreme consequences. While it was probably impressive to witness Pilate’s entrance into town with his armed guards, beautiful horses, and decorated vestments, the people did not celebrate his entrance into town. Pilate was comfortable riding a war horse as he had been a knight before he was elected to hold a government role.[ii] He probably walked through the streets head held high, back straight projecting an image of authority as he looked down on the people.
In stark contrast, we hear about the second parade, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We find this account in every gospel. Although each gospel details the event a little differently, we hear that Jesus rides into town on a lowly colt found by his disciples and that people line his path with palms and their own cloaks. John 12:13 tells us the people “took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna![a]” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b] “Blessed is the king of Israel!”
In this parade, the people of Jerusalem recognized Jesus Christ as king. They were not frightened by his presence, but excited that the promised Messiah was coming to save them. All along the way in this parade process, Jesus’ disciples were reciting all of his amazing deeds and miracles, just in case people did not know who he was. Jesus did not come into town proud and arrogant like Pilate.
He came into town as a humble servant. He was unarmed, he did not have beautiful vestments, but he had come to be among the people and show them that the Son of God was with them. Jesus entry marks one week from his resurrection, and this is why Palm Sunday kicks off holy week. It is the marking of the trajectory that Jesus is taking from Jerusalem, to the cross, to the tomb and beyond.
Almighty God, as we approach Holy Week help us to continue to follow Jesus from Jerusalem to the cross. Even when the journey become difficult help us stay beside Christ to bear witness to his suffering and death for our sins. Give us joy on Palm Sunday that as we wave our palms and shout “Hosanna” we recognize that you are still in the business of saving us from our sins. Make your presence known to us today as we gather strength for the journey. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
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