My notes from the teaching moment at Kairos' Palm Sunday gathering at Quakertown Memorial Park:
It’s time to celebrate! Israel has its king! God has heard our cries! God is acting to free us from the terrible power of Rome! All hail, King Jesus!
Jesus’ ministry has a lot of great examples of people completely missing his point. He announces his fulfillment of the prophecies and his hometown neighbors want to kill him – how can a local boy say these things? Don’t we know him? He declares himself the bread of heaven and even some of his followers are grossed out at the idea of eating his flesh. He offers freedom and the Jews squabble about never having been physically or financially slaves.
Here Jesus offers himself to the punishment, to the humiliation, to the execution that he knows is coming, entering the city humbly on an ass, and the people are overjoyed! Here is our king! All hail King Jesus!
We’re suckers for a success story, aren’t we? Theologically, this is known as the theology of glory. We love it when God rides in and saves the day, wins the war, hits a home run, provides prosperity and material rewards. We love it when the forces of right sweep evil right off the map.
But this isn’t the way our God works. Our God’s power is not revealed in his glory, but in weakness. In the way he attends to the poor and downtrodden. In the way he uses cracked pots like us to accomplish God’s mission. But most importantly in the way he overcame our most insidious enemies – sin and death – by taking on sin and submitting to death. Jesus points us to a theology of the cross, a way of understanding the world in which we don’t simply equate success with God’s favor but look for God’s action even in the weak and broken places and people – even in ourselves.
Jesus takes it so far as to say that, in order to see him, we have to see those who are poor, and sick, and imprisioned, and lame – in his words, “the least of these.” So its appropriate that we have brought offerings of food for the hungry as our tribute to Jesus today. But the story doesn’t end here. And it doesn’t jump right to the glory of Easter.
We get to Easter through the cross. So I invite you this week to spend time with Christ and his passion, in Scripture, in reflection, in prayer and in community.