“Proclamation of Profitable Passion”
April 5, 2020
Isaiah 50: 4-9
Psalm 31: 1-5; 19-24
Philippians 2: 5-11
Matthew 26: 14-28
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
Today is Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, and hopefully we start on a lighter foot with the right understanding, the right motive, and with the right honor.
In ancient Israel, on Palm Sunday, there were two kinds of people in Jerusalem. The Galileans, who were pilgrims who came to Jerusalem with Jesus, and the residents of Jerusalem called the Judeans. The Galileans saw the miracles of Jesus and heard His teachings. The Judeans did not hear Him as much. The Galileans were the ones who proclaimed Jesus as King and they were the ones who were waving their palm branches and laying down their clothes as Jesus was passing riding on a donkey.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the city was stirred. The Judeans asked the Galileans, “Who is this? The Galileans answered, “This is the prophet Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee.” There was a tribal war between the Galileans and the Judeans. The Judeans felt superior that they were more educated and sophisticated, and they looked down on the Galileans. The Galileans were backward, lacked Jewish sophistication, and were pagan-influenced with an Aramaic accent. When Peter denied Jesus three times, he was recognized as a disciple because of his accent. The Judeans also said that the Messiah will surely not come from Galilee. In one of the gospels, it was asked, “Can anything good come out from Nazareth?”
The Judeans rejected Jesus and this is why they shouted in Jerusalem, “Crucify Him,” because they considered Jesus below them because the Messiah should come from Judea. This was a confrontation at one level between the Judeans and the Galileans. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the Judeans were disturbed and shaken because they were so used to being under Roman rule. King Herod was in-charge in Galilee, whereas Pontius Pilate was the one in-charge in Judea. The Judeans embraced the Roman rule instead of the ways of God. When the God-sent Messiah came, they totally missed Him.
It is ironic because the temple was in Jerusalem with the scholars of the Scriptures yet they missed Jesus. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because in them, you will find eternal life, but it is I whom the Scriptures talked about.” They missed the visitation of God because they were so used to the ways of the world. The religious establishment was summed up with Caiphas saying, “We have no king but Caesar.” They have fashioned their own king, a god after an image in their mind. They embraced Caesar’s way of power, might, and lording over others. They rejected God’s kingdom which was of forgiveness, of mercy and helping the needy, thus the rejected Jesus.
The Passover is a celebration of Israel’s independence from the tyranny of Egypt. Jesus, being our Deliverer, leads us to freedom from sin into a new creation. Jesus did not enter Jerusalem on foot like the other pilgrims. The rulers and the kings entered Jerusalem on horses. Jesus rode on a donkey. This was sending a message. Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world. My kingdom is of peace, of meekness, of mercy and of humility.” He did this in fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy that is, “Say to Jerusalem, ‘Behold the King, riding on a donkey.’” The thinking of Jerusalem was that their king will be like David – mightier than Pontius Pilate, mightier than Caesar because that is the image that they have made in their minds. Jesus was a meek King; not a conquistador; not of political or military might. His kingdom is of peace, non-violence, of love where others are first and where the needy are prioritized.
The people did not know of Jesus’ secret ambition: to give His life for all. This is not a secret anymore to us as His followers. His kingdom is of giving up of self, of building up of others not tearing down. In the world, one advances by climbing over people and tearing them down to get ahead. They did not recognize God’s voice in Jesus Christ.
In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelite that when they reach the Promised Land, they are to incapacitate their horses and keep their donkeys. The donkey was an animal of agricultural and was productive. The horse was intended for war. The people were to be productive, not destructive. The God of peace wants swords and spears turned into farming implements. Our role is to cultivate and to take care of the creation of God.
Israel’s kings were told not to accumulate horses which they ignored in disobedience. David said that a horse is a false hope for salvation, so people don’t put trust in it but in God. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. If His kingdom was of this world, then, my servants would be fighting. His kingdom is not about fighting, and it is subversive in that Jesus was actually revoking the kingdom of Caesar that was about power, military might, and tearing down of each other.
Jesus is Lord and as His followers, as His citizens in His kingdom, His ways are what we follow. If Jesus is Lord, then let Him guide our feet into the way of peace. The meek Lamb, silent before slaughterers, takes away the sins of the world – the violence, the greed of the world. He teaches us to follow not ourselves but after Him and this is how we are led to the resurrected life. How do we do this? It is by Jesus absorbing and forgiving sin and this is how He conquers them. This is what Jesus established as His kingdom on Palm Sunday. This is how He started this Holy Week.
May we go through Holy Week understanding what the Kingdom Jesus established. It is not about locating fault or finding fault. It is not about assigning who to blame but all about forgiving and showing mercy. It is not about asking who sinned or whose fault it is that we are suffering this pandemic. Instead, our question should be, “How can God’s mercy be shown from this.”
Continue to shout “Hosanna”. Hosanna means save now; deliver now. Sometimes, we forget that we belong to the Kingdom of peace, of mercy, and of love. Sometimes, we follow the kings of the world, the Caesars of the world, and we think that we belong to these worlds and follow their ways to advance ourselves. We cry out “Hosanna” to deliver us from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light. This is where we belong – a Kingdom that is exemplified by a King who gave His life, Who came not to be served but to serve and Who gave His life for ransom for all men.
This is Jesus’ kingdom and this is the way it is in this very Kingdom.