Thursday, February 28

Lenten Bible Study Day 16; Luke 19

(NB: I've heard from a number of my fellow pilgrims that they were not able to leave comments on the posts that I've been writing. I am told that problem should be fixed. Our apologies for the problem.)

Luke Chapter 19 (NRSV)

Today we read of the entrance into Jerusalem. It's the event we celebrate on Palm Sunday - which traditionally marks the beginning of Holy Week. I hope you notice though that in Luke, we still have a way to go yet before we hear the story of the events of the Triduum (the three holiest days of the Church year: starting at sunset with Maundy Thursday night, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Day). All four of the Gospels have an account of the Passion of Christ, but each one of them differs in details and in how the events played themselves out. But that's something I'll write more about in a few days I imagine.)

But today we hear how Jesus, in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies, enters Jerusalem after descending from the Mount of Olives riding on a colt (Zech 9:9). His followers cut palm branches, shout Hosanna! and expect that this is the beginning of the end of the earthly occupation of the Holy City.

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan in their book "The Last Week", point out that, if you hold to the traditional understanding that this event happened a week before Passover, there were two processions that day. Coming from the other direction, and entering by another gate was a line of roman soldiers in full battle dress led by Pilate himself. They were coming at Pontius Pilate's command because there was a history of unrest in the city on the high holy days. The Zealots would take advantage of the crowds to settle scores - finding the confusion and noise an opportune time to kill someone by stabbing and then vanishing into the throng. Having the legion make a display of entering was intended to cow people into submission and to suppress any resistance.

So you have two competing views of power coming into Jerusalem at the same time. One descending. One ascending up from the plains. One representing force of arms, coercion and earthly power. One bringing the archetypal passover lamb into the city representing signaling the birth of the Kingdom of God. You have, in this moment, the Prince of Peace preparing to face the Gods of War.

As a number of observers point out, this historical collision of symbols represents more than the stark choice we are going to be presented with as Jesus is brought to trial. It also represents the struggle with in each of us of our own natures and desires. The roman procession represents the desire of coercion, the opposing represents the call to loving sacrifice for others.

In the events of Holy Week we chose. And we chose badly. And God used our bad choice for good. That's God's way. That is the nature of the Kingdom of God. God will work with what we give, but God's will shall be done.

How have you chosen poorly in your life, and then found that God was able to redeem that choice and use it for the purposes of salvation?

1 comment:

  1. The question you ask is represented in one dramatic way in my life of recovery from alcoholism. This terrible disease caused many bad choices which I was responsible for. But God's redemption occurred through the 12 steps of AA. Simply put, I found an amazing relationship with God who empowered me to see myself clearly. With that knowledge, I was able to turn to Him and ask for help to change and ultimately to go to those I had harmed and ask forgiveness. But of course, the struggle continues within me to choose between the two natures that you reference. Today I know the reality of God's love and forgiveness, and have found a life of joy.