The sounds of the hosannas are rich in harmony. They echo melodically through the city gates with joy. The image of the crowd along the streets of Jerusalem is filled with hope. Yet if you listen carefully, the sounds of hosannas are rapidly being silenced by whispers in the shadows of the city streets. As men, women and children receive the one who enters the city walls; others secretly plot to silence him. The ability of Jesus to rally emotion, hope and renewal creates “dis-ease” in the “powers that be.”
Two unlikely powers within the city walls – one religious and one secular – find themselves on a collision course that will ultimately lead to the violence of the cross at Golgotha. Their concerns for maintaining a way of life and their fear of unwanted revolutions come together in an unholy alliance – an alliance that colludes, orchestrating the darkest night for humanity.
On one side, we recall the power of the Roman Government. They’re perhaps concerned with maintaining the peace of the status-quo. They would have no desire to have additional trouble with the Jewish religious leadership. Pilate’s cowardly action speaks loudly to this reality. One can imagine their thoughts – “pay us our taxes, keep to yourselves and stay out of our way.”
On the other side, we recall the religious authorities – nervous about the energy rising in their people. They are concerned about giving up the little security and power they’ve acquired under the rule of Rome. And yet we must also believe that some among the religious leadership were trying to genuinely defend the truth of their beliefs. Perhaps they believed that Jesus was a kind of misled zealot. They would have had no interest in allowing a premature, Zealot-led revolution bring the wrath of Rome down upon their people.
Two powers – one basic concern – maintenance of what was familiar or fear of losing the known. I was led to remember the well-known words from the movie and play “Jesus Christ Superstar.” These words were sung by the character of Judas. Their creative interpretation provides insight into some possible concerns of that time 2,000 years ago.
“Listen Jesus, do you care for your race? Don’t you see we must keep in our place. We are occupied, have you forgotten how put down we are. I am frightened by the crowd, for we are getting much too loud – and they’ll crush us if we go too far…
Nazareth, your famous son should have stayed a great unknown. Like his father carving wood, he’d have made good. Tables, chairs and oaken chests would have suited Jesus best. He’d have caused nobody harm; no one alarm.”
I ask myself, would I have resonated with these words? Would I have gotten on the collision course of powers to avoid the inconvenience or losses? Would I have been part of the collusion? Would I have missed the messianic presence of God because I was afraid of letting go of the known? These were the tough questions of those long ago. These are the tough questions for us today. And I for one, am afraid of the truth of my answer.
So as we enter the fullness of the Holy Week before us, may we again be challenged to think about the sacrificial nature of our call as the church of Jesus Christ. May we again be challenged to think of our faith as a way of life that challenges the status quo. Like the one we serve, may we remember that we are to be a prophetic voice – not a reactive one. May we not let our fears push us into unholy alliances that are counter to all we claim to be and believe.
For we are the people of God’s “upside down kingdom.” Our “king” is a servant king who refused to be compromised by the very powers of his time, powers that collided and colluded – ultimately taking his life on a cross.
May we walk into this next week with a deep awareness of the pain, the power-mongering, the betrayal, and the denial that so defined the last days of Jesus on this earth; and that frankly, so often still defines our relationships with God and one another. May we walk with an even deeper awareness of a love so profound that it defies death and the depths of hell with the radiant light of the resurrection. May we embrace that light as it ultimately breaks forth from the darkness of a tomb – proclaiming loudly –
“Why do you look for the living among the dead. He is not here. He is risen.”
Please click here for a PDF of Ruth’s Spirit Soundings: SantanaGraceSpiritSoundings11APR2014