Palm Sunday: Jesus puts on an anti-establishment march/demonstration

Palm Sunday procession

On Palm Sunday Christians wave around their palm fronds to symbolize Jesus entry into ancient Jerusalem, but they leave out the real political significance of his going to Jerusalem.

Unlike today’s practitioners of his religion Jesus, is going to challenge the political authorities, the government along with the collaborators who run interference for the oppressive Roman colonialist regime. His going to Jerusalem was a kind of march on Washington to demand an end to Roman [ read US ]militarism, racism, sexism, religious bigotry. It was a demonstration to demand that the poor be fed and housed and that the sick be granted health care and to demand an end to international intervention that features the bombing of Syria, Iraq and Yemen, but rather turn its attention to the famine ravaging Yemen and East Africa. He would denounce terrorism as well, both State terrorism and individual terrorism.

The boldness of Jesus of Nazareth in his MARCH ON JERUSALEM is in clear contrast to the timidity in the face of injustice exploitation and oppression shown by most who claim to follow him today.

Titled the “triumphal entry” by many, Palm Sunday is known as the event in which Jesus enters into Jerusalem on a donkey and is acknowledged as Messiah by many who throw palm fronds in his path to honor him as he approaches the temple in Jerusalem to take part in the annual Passover celebration. But it’s not as simple as that.

Similar to today when many cheer on the so-called leader of the free world wherever he appears there are those who organize counter protests to bring attention to the policies they oversee that bring misery to the masses. Jesus was organizing the protest against all that the Trump administration represents and all that US imperialism represents.

Biblical scholars point out that the Passover celebration or the Feast of Passover was a “volatile” time. The holiday revolved around the acknowledgement that the Israelite God had delivered the Israelites from, oppression, slavery and captivity by the Egyptian Empire. The celebration almost always heightened their dissatisfaction and anger at Roman occupation and increased their desire for independence.

Every year it served as a focal point for nationalist aspiration and on occasion it lead to riots, so the Romans would send a Legion or two to Jerusalem to prevent and discourage Jewish rebellion. So Jesus took advantage of the Passover to lay down the gauntlet so to speak.

He and his disciples organized a counter protest. He had a donkey in place, organized a starting place for the rally and march and clearly had distributed flyers beforehand and put the word out in the ancient equivalent of social media, including an ancient Face Book event post informing their Galilean brothers and sisters that he was going to do this.

As the Roman governor Pontius Pilate approached Jerusalem from the west he would be proceeded by the sound of horns, he would be seated on a horse decked out with jewels and gold, followed by the Roman Legions, soldiers on horseback and on foot carrying banners and poles with the golden Roman eagle prominently displayed. Some theologians have pointed out that the Romans would roust everyone from their homes and force them to cheer on the royal parade.

Almost simultaneously, Jesus held a march from the east, the Mount of Olives riding on a donkey clearly mocking the powerful Roman show of force. The people of their own will spread royal palm fronds a symbol of royalty in front of him and shouted Hosanna. His countrymen understood his message, which according to scholars was tantamount to a “declaration of independence.”

Consequently, it was impossible to believe that anybody including the Roman authorities misunderstood what he was doing. Just as it takes some theological gymnastics on the part of today’s Christians to interpret these scriptures as some kind of harmless peaceful praise dancing procession designed to disturb nothing and no one.

Rather the Messianic theme served as background for the idea that God desired the people to be free of oppression. Jesus stands in opposition to colonialism, class society today’s capitalism and stands on the principle that nothing ultimately belongs to the unjust power structures of the world, but rather, “the earth is the Lords is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof “and God desires all of its inhabitants to enjoy peace, prosperity and justice.

The day when his followers actually follow him and make the trek to the seat of power and demand justice will be welcomed by the rest of the world.

justice then peace

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