Luke 22:14-23:56 or Luke 23:1-49.
Every year the Roman army would come marching into Palestine during Passover. It was Pilate in the time of Jesus, who riding a white stallion, led the parade as a symbol of Rome’s dominance and oppression. It was a reminder to “nobodies” not to cause trouble during the Passover. So what does Jesus do? In a seemingly mocking parody, he rides a donkey, a lowly beast of burden in the opposite direction and enters through the gate from which Pilate exited. While Pilate needed a whole legion to demonstrate his importance and control, Jesus’ “power” was rooted in relationships and the everlasting love of God and in God’s desires for the good of the world and all its creatures.
The gospel writers tell us that this event was not accidental. Jesus planned it ahead of time. He knew what he was doing and he knew he was risking the wrath of Rome by provoking the authorities. And eventually they caught up with him.
God did not plan Jesus’ death. God did not desire it. God did not need it for God’s salvation of the world and all its creatures to work out. So then, why the cross?
The Cross was used by the Romans to not only destroy the identity of the one who was crucified, but to erase his mission and serve as a warning to any of his followers. Ironically reviled as an image, the cross became and endured as a central symbol for our faith…a symbol of a nobody who is resurrected. No one would expect a nobody to be resurrected.
Contrary to some beliefs, Jesus was not ransomed for us, but rather, he takes our place, not for our sins, but for the trials of our human journey. We know and have known people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, who at the very least put themselves at risk for the sake of others. This exchange is God standing with us as we face our reality and its dangers. God is in the midst of our human experience.
The cross reminds us that our world is still a “risky” place, and that much will be asked of us. Yet it reminds us that death has no power over us because we live in the light of the resurrection of a nobody who was raised up as will we. The cross reminds us to stand up for those who need to be rescued and to stand with those who work for the common good even when it seems to be hopeless or dangerous. We can live in a time of trouble with joy.
Jesus challenged the love of power and lived for the power of love. Jesus was offering a different vision of how things could be, Palm Sunday asks us: which vision of power will rule our lives? To which kingdom will we belong? Which parade will we join? (Adapted from Parades and Crosses, George Hermanson)