Saturday, April 16, 2011

PALM SUNDAY PARADOX

Palm Sunday signals that the future doesn't belong to those who use might to make right


NAÏVE AND UNWITTING. Palm Sunday is the ultimate expression of mistaken hopes for national spiritual renewal and theocracy. Naively, the followers of Jesus anticipate he will overthrow corrupt worldly government and power. They hope for a restoration of Israel’s “good ol’ days.” Its contemporary equivalent is the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, and similar Christian populist movements. Palm Sunday triumphalism is precisely NOT the way it is supposed to be for those who follow Jesus.

INDULGING THE HOPEFUL. But Jesus seems to indulge hopeful naiveté on Palm Sunday. He goes along as far as he can. He allows himself to be praised as the “one who comes in the name of the Lord,” a designation reserved for Messiah. He says to the propriety-obsessed religious leaders who are aghast at the children’s “Hosanna” cries: “If they don’t praise me, the rocks will.” Yet, Jesus doesn’t let himself be controlled by their hopes, demands, or fears. Jesus stays on task to accomplish his mission.

REDEFINING LORDSHIP. During what we now call Holy Week, Jesus shatters Palm Sunday naiveté and triumphalism. Jesus forever re-defines Kingdom, Lordship, power, leadership, morality, and triumph through the Cross and Resurrection. The future does not belong to those who use might to make right, but to those who embrace and live the paradox of the Cross and Resurrection: “Whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will save it.” It will take all the imagination and creativity and energy that grace will make possible for the rest of my life to grasp and live this paradox.

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