Which Parade?

 

....the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ – Matthew 21:10

One of the most dramatic and overlooked aspects of the Easter story is the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. 

Jesus enters the city from the east. Scholars tell us of another procession coming from the west: the port city of Caesarea.

During Passover the city of Jerusalem swelled from 40,000 to 200,000. For an insecure, Rome-appointed political leader—whose charge was to keep his Jewish subjects "in check"—Pontius Pilate sent a Roman garrison of soldiers to fortify the troops permanently stationed in the holy city. Civil unrest would jeopardize Pilate’s appointment.

This parade from the west was visibly stunning: pageantry, swords, spears, shiny helmets, protruding chests, emotionless faces. Pilate, sitting proudly on his battle-trained stallion.

The parade from the east was markedly different. Instead of spears...palm leaves. Instead of well-groomed soldiers...poorly dressed peasants. Instead of order and precision...chaos. Instead of military cadence...shouts of Hosanna in the Highest.  And Jesus, the man leading the procession, rides a humble donkey.

The vivid contrast between the two parades was more than simple pageantry. It was also a contrast of world views, of vision, of mission.

The parade from the west was guided by imperial power and theology. Rome was more than just a city--it was a belief system.  Its message was simple: Might makes right! The first shall be first! Intimidate! Consolidate power. Use the poor to your advantage. To the onlooker, Rome seemed invincible. Secure.

In stark contrast, the Jesus parade was guided by a vision laid out in his earlier teachings: greatness is found in humility, true life is found in surrender, love your neighbor, care for the poor, share, be agents of healing, peace and grace....

It's no accident that these two parades arrive at the city at the same time. Nothing is accidental with Jesus. Jesus wants you and me to make a choice between two conflicting parades. And following the Jesus parade takes faith—especially in times of fear and uncertainty. 

This is an extraordinary moment in our history. We enter Holy Week with our world literally turned upside down, our heads spinning in disbelief and our feet looking for a stable place to stand. I’m sure the disciples had similar feelings as they followed their donkey-riding leader to the cross.

The Good News of Palm Sunday is we know our parade is the real deal—it’s the parade that endures and lives generationally in those who follow Jesus. Yes, it gets darker before it gets better, there is pain, betrayal, and moments when the light seems to disappear. Hang on. Keep walking. Keep living the vision. We know how our parade ends. It’s the parade that continues to change lives and change our world.

God’s courage and peace as you journey this week.

Bruce Main
President