Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Palm Sunday Re-visited?

I preached on the so-called 'Triumphal Entry' on Sunday. I was particularly keen to try to find something 'new' in the story that a group of mature Christians had probably heard every year for longer than I've been alive.

It occurred to me: was it really a triumphal entry? Afterall, it seems that it can be interpreted not only as a 'processional praise party' cheering Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, but also as being a story of failure - the failure of the people to recognise Jesus as a non-violent messiah and also the failure of Jewish religion to provide honest worship to God. If there was a whiff of triumph on that first Palm Sunday it certainly wasn't the sort that would impress Rome or the kind that impressed the fickle crowds in Jerusalem for very long. In fact, some commentators believe that the 'Hosanna' cry was actually part of the usual Passover wish for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy rather than a direct affirmation of Jesus' messiahship. The people sing in honour of the coming King without fully realising that he is in their midst.

I'm left to wonder whether Jesus himself actually wanted a 'triumphal entry'. Perhaps it's possible to see it more as a 'lowly' entry - particularly seeing as he goes on, in Luke 19:41-44, to ruin any kind of praise-party atmosphere with his jugdgement of Israel when its enemies will come and 'dash them to the ground'.

1 comment:

forrest said...

Best account I've found, so far, has Jesus doing the entry during the Feast of Tabernacles--which is when the King of Israel is actually required to show up at the Temple, read the relevant section from the Torah, establish that he knows his responsibilities and intends to carry them out.

All this supposes that all that about Jesus being "Messiah" == "anointed"==
" legally (as legally as David) 'crowned' by the appropriate authority (such as the highest ranking available prophet == John the Baptist?)"

--was not metaphor, but an inconvenient fact, better not emphasized too loudly around the Romans or their collaborators.

Luke shows a trace of this in a few early manuscripts, where the words at Jesus' "baptism" are taken directly from the coronation psalm: "Today you are my son; today I have begotten you."