A Religious Revolution in 3 Parts: Palm Sunday

(This is how I experience Palm Sunday in my head. May God be glorified, and may the reader be edified. In short, I hope it helps make sense of Palm Sunday.)

L.

We sat at table on the Sabbath before Passover, enjoying Jerusalem and giving thanks to YHWH for all of his blessings. We had done all our oblations. We had washed our hands. We had said the Shema. We were open to The Lord’s Spirit. Life was good — as good as it can be under Roman occupation. Our taxes were high, but that’s the price of being conquered, I suppose. For roads, cisterns, and the ability (such as it is) to practice our religion, and because their gods seem stronger to them (and maybe some of us for now), we pay our taxes. If only those little greedy tax collectors didn’t add their own fees to everything, life would be almost acceptable. How can they do that to us? Our own people! It’s not right to put your finger on the scale and charge people for more than they get.

Still, it is a good day to soak in the sun, and experience our God, to forget about the soldiers’ march and noise for a day and focus on holiness, remembering mitzvahs that we have done and those done for us. We hear the Torah read by our elders and we remember God’s powerful wrath against those who have oppressed us. YHWH will teach those who hate us a lesson, just as he did when Pharaoh challenged Moses. Some day our land will be ours again!

The city, the beautiful city, shines before us and we do what is required of us. Ours is a good God, a powerful, yet patient God who will establish our dominance once again. We will control the city’s gates, the ones so near our house. Rome will be gone and David’s glory will be restored.

The next day, there is a ruckus by the city gates. There is a man who can’t make up his mind on a donkey and a horse. There are all kinds of people surrounding him, yelling all kinds of things, some seem like chants and some… what a weird mix of people! Don’t they know anything! Men are standing with women. Tax collectors are with them. There are lepers and blind people — all in the same crowd! Clearly these people, who ever they are, don’t know the first thing about purity and our Law! Such noise in our streets! Such chaos!They seem to say Hosanna, but that can’t be right…not with those people.

Our elders have gone out to meet with them. They are talking to the donkey/horse man. There is quiet for a few minutes, then the eruption of “Hosannah!” happens again and this horrible little parade of the unclean continues to move through town. When my parents speak to the elders, they say this: “It’s nothing to worry about. The riff-raff rise up like this from time to time. The Romans will crush them. And about the “hosannas”? They are not like any kind of Jews we have seen before, so they are nothing. They are ungrateful beggars. If the elders had any fears at all, they’d meet. Nothing is scheduled.

II.

This is amazing! This man, this Jesus, can see the future! He tells people that an animal will be somewhere and it is! He commands his people to take it and they do! He is powerful in some kind of way, and yet, I am here, with him. How is that possible?! I, who have been unclean for years, am just a few steps away from this man! He spit on the ground, rubbed the dirt in my eyes, and I could see! Of course I’ll stay with him for as long as he’s alive. Next to me is a woman who used to have demons in her! We don’t really talk, but she isn’t leaving him either, so I guess we’re going to be together for a while. I wonder what that will be like. People are sharing bread and figs with us, bringing us water. This is the best we’ve eaten in a long time.

I’ve been with him for a while now, and we’ve never been hungry, but this? This is a feast! I wonder how long this can go on.

Oh, no! We must have upset somebody. Some local rabbi has come out to talk to Jesus. There is tense silence in the crowd, and Jesus says the rocks will sing if we can’t. The priest mutters something, shakes his head, and walks off. Jesus told off the priest, and won! Wow! He is powerful! “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”, we shout. This man who cares for each of us in his own way — the one who tells off priests and gets away with it?Wait ‘til Rome gets a load of him!

III.

Abba? Daddy? Pops? Are you sure this is what you want? Ok. I guess we’ll go that a way. Guys? Guys? Hey, pretty soon, we’re going to need a donkey and a foal. There’s a guy over in town. When you see him, tell him I need it. He’ll give it you. No seriously, I’m telling you, he will. Just tell him it’s for me. Thanks.

Yes, here’s some bread. Of course I want to heal you. Come here! How’s that? See! I told you! Give glory to God. That’s all the thanks I need. We’re good. Hey, who touched me? Huh? Oh, you! You’re healed too. Ok. Same thing, just give glory to God. Come on! We’re going to see The Big Boys!

Hey, guys! Over here! How do you think this is gonna work? (The disciples put a board between the two animals. Jesus falls off and laughs. They try again and are successful.) Guys! I could get used to this! (He continues to laugh. People are throwing clothes on the road as if to say, “Your majesty…”. People are ripping down palm branches and waving them. Jesus thinks about it and says aloud), “Dad! Maybe, finally, they get it?! Maybe? People are saying , “Hosanna!”. Dang, this might actually work!

Uh, oh. Here comes the first test, a local leader, in his fanciest outfit, stops the parade. He comes up to me, and says, “You’re going to have to shut this thing down! They’re talking like you are somebody. Clearly you’re not, or you wouldn’t even be talking to these people. The Holy One kills blasphemers, you know!” Yup. I know. I’ve seen it, but I think we have different ideas of who is a blasphemer… The guy yells now, “Are you threatening me, young man?!”. Nope. Just stating facts, Mr. Rabbi, sir… and speaking of facts, we mean you no harm, but I gotta tells ya, it’s not gonna happen that they shut up. Dad says to tell you that if they did, the rocks and stones themselves would shout and sing. So, no, I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

(The rabbi mutters and returns to his home. As he does, the crowd begins to chant “Hossana! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!)

Dad, pops, Abba…. I hope you know what you’re doing. Yes, of course you do. I know, but that guy seemed really upset, and we just got into town. We haven’t even talked to the Romans yet! Yes, yes, I trust you… I hope they understand.

Resisting in Peace,

John

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