People around the world gather to wave flags, stare in awe at fireworks, throw candy, and line the streets to watch parades that commemorate a historical event. Many times these parades are linked to current revelry of food, drinking, and a full out party atmosphere. They are fun events. We enjoy them. All the while the true cultural-historical reason for the commemoration is often misplaced. Forgotten are the lives that were committed, and even lost, to bring about such historical events.
Around the world today such parades have commenced. On this day, communities of faith join together in the celebration, clinching onto palm branches, yelling “Hosanna.” Hope is in the air. Today is known as Palm Sunday. It commemorates Jesus’ ride on a donkey toward Jerusalem and the people who welcomed him with praise. This story has become so familiar to the modern day family of faith that we often miss the revolutionary power of the event. The people of the day were under occupation and they believed that Jesus was coming to overturn the oppressive and corrupt political systems of the occupiers. Those in power saw this man from Nazareth stirring up the everyday people and making trouble. So by scheming means those in power arrested him, ridiculed him, falsely tried him, tortured him, and finally used a cross to kill him as a public form of showing what happens to those who resist.
On this day some 2000 years ago, we might take into account that Jesus was not ushering in a new time of power, might, and authority that was to overthrow the oppressive occupiers. By riding a donkey (a symbol of peace and humility) rather than a warhorse, Jesus was resisting the continued fighting and turmoil that was brought about by the oppressive occupiers. Jesus sought a new revolutionary idea — active resistance through non-violent means to fight the systems that oppress. His invitation of a peace-filled resistance was too simple and revolutionary. So the parade of welcome turned to an uprising against him and his WAY. Today we often cheer for our heroes, but it is said that you should never meet your heroes because then you will learn who they really are. As modern families of faith, we might want to see who our Jesus really is. Many say we believe in Jesus and we get comfort. Yet that is very different from believing in the WAY of Jesus.
Two things we can do:
1) We might return to scriptures and reread the stories of faith through the lens of a revolutionary man who came to resist the powers of oppression through the way of peace. We might want to read again how he sought to stand up for the woman, children, poor, and the outsiders who were being cast down. All the while he used non-violent means to advance his kingdom.
2) This week, known as Holy Week, we might choose to embrace an active belief in a new WAY. This week we remember the great suffering of one man that led to his death. He chose to suffer with and for all who are in loss, pain, suffering, and who are oppressed. Might we embrace the fact that he has partnered with each of us in our current day suffering? He is with you in your suffering.
A revolutionary man showed us a new way of resistance; the story of Holy Week ends on Easter with eminent power over the most feared offender of all living- death. It is conquered. If you dare believe in the man, dare to believe in his new and simple way.
• Dr. David M. Marz is pastor at Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church, 1159 N. Greenfield Road in Gilbert. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter-@spiritofjoyluth.