This was my text from Palm Sunday; I thought it would be appropriate still, given the season.
All over the world today, preachers will be speaking about the paradox of Palm Sunday. On the first day of this week, the people of ancient Jerusalem cheered and wept as Jesus came into town, riding on a donkey. By the end of the week, the same people were calling for his death. This is of course, an example of the fickle nature of crowds and of political opinion. But surely there is more to it than that! Unless some things happened in that week that we do not know about, the crowd’s rapid move from exaltation to rage seems jarringly disjointed. Perhaps that’s why the story continues to intrigue us.
I was thinking about all of that this week as I began to prepare for this message. I reflected on the social conditions of that era, trying to gain some new understanding of the context within which the events of Palm Sunday and Holy week occurred. As I did, I began to realize that Jesus had become an intolerable threat to many powerful people. His existence had become the source of considerable anxiety for those at the top.
Of course, the human beings who were so disturbed at Jesus had no idea that they were really small-time players in a cosmic drama. The real powers behind the events of Holy Week, the real source of the anxiety that gripped the kings, priests and finally the mob, were invisible to human beings. The invisible powers were, however, the ones really calling the shots. I want to talk about them in a moment. First though, let’s talk about the human side of this story. Let’s ask ourselves why the leaders of first century Judea wanted to kill Jesus Christ.
Jesus Was a Political Threat
Jesus was not a political threat because he cared about politics. Actually, he had become threatening because he viewed the political system under which he lived as irrelevant. He preached that the kingdom of God was coming; that the joys and fortunes of the masses would no longer be dependent upon states and kings. Because of this message, Jesus is often depicted as a revolutionary by those who want to make our Lord look like Che Guevara, plotting against governments out in the jungle somewhere.