Parade for Peace

This last Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday and we will celebrate Maunday Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter later this week. Palm Sunday was Jesus’ last Sunday before his death. His last “first day of the week”. That’s because in the Jewish calendar, the Sabbath was Saturday, the seventh day, and the first day of the week was Sunday. In other words, it was Jesus’ last what we would call Monday.

What does Jesus do on his last “Monday”? Well he didn’t complain about Monday which is what I do sometimes. Jesus prepares to go into Jerusalem, which is the place that not too long ago his disciples asked him to avoid because people wanted to kill him there. This is a festival week for the Jews, so Jerusalem is a busy place. Whereas the Sabbath would have been a more quiet day, this day was one where everyone is preparing for the big event later in the week. It’s like a few days before Christmas. All the women were cleaning everything. Because it is Passover, all yeast had to be removed from the house. So everything had to be cleaned. There was shopping to do for the big meal and all the little meals before and after. People were coming from out of town so guest rooms had to be prepared. It was probably a crazy day in Jerusalem. And Jesus’ coming made it crazier.

He prepares for it by sending his disciples to borrow a donkey without asking. And despite the craziness of the request, they do it. This is a point I had not really thought about before. KPaul did a good job explaining that in his sermon at Avalon this week. My friend, Jon Swanson, talks about this in his blog today as well, asking the question of whether Jesus had planned this before hand or not. Either way, the disciples had to respond in trust that Jesus knew what he was doing. And he did. He was fulfilling the Scripture from Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” And this kicks off the party in Jerusalem.

See the people in Jerusalem knew that prophecy. They saw Jesus arriving on a donkey and they read the rest of the passage in their head. The part where it says he will bring peace and rule the earth. And so they were thrilled that Jesus had finally announced his rule. Rome was going down! So celebrate! The people start shouting and singing and throwing down palm branches and having a good time welcoming the king to their city.

But not Jesus. He sees the city and all of the people, and he WEEPS! Not just a few tears, but WEEPS. Have you ever noticed that before? It’s in Luke 19:41-42.

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes.”

Luke 9:41-42

See he knew that they were reading the rest of Zechariah in their heads, like the verse that says “He will proclaim peace to the nations.” But it isn’t by conquering Rome that peace comes. Zechariah 9:11 says “As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.” (The waterless pit is probably the grave here.) How is peace going to come? By blood. Whose blood? Jesus’. Not only that, but Jesus knew what was going to happen to Jerusalem within just a few years. Back to Luke.

The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.

Luke 9:43-44
Part of the inside of the Arch of Titus in Rome celebrating the conquering of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay

Verse 43 describes a siege, and its results are in verse 44. That actually happened in 70 A.D. Jerusalem rebelled against the Romans and the Romans destroyed Jerusalem after a long siege. The suffering of the people inside the city was awful. And Jesus predicted it. He even told them why it would happen: because they didn’t recognize the time of God’s coming to them. Not only didn’t they recognize him as God coming to them, they were going to kill him in 5 days. So no wonder he weeps for them. He knows the suffering that will occur because of their blindness.

So the people of Jerusalem celebrate and praise God (Lk. 19:37) in ignorance of God with them, and Jesus mourns. The Pharisees are angry at the whole display. And it is all about the source of peace.

The Romans are all about peace: Pax Romana literally means Roman peace. Rome’s gospel was one of peace throughout the empire under Caesar, the son of God. They intended to bring peace to the nations they conquered by force. The Jewish leaders cooperated with Rome so that they could continue to honor their religious traditions while still having peace. Rome let them have some power so that they would support them among the masses. That’s why the Pharisees are upset about the party. If there is a rebellion, Rome will come down hard and the Jewish leaders will lose what power they have. But the Roman peace is not true peace.

The people of Jerusalem think that Jesus is going to lead a revolt against Rome and expel them, bringing political peace to their nation. But political peace is not why Jesus came. Jesus came to bring us spiritual peace. His coming and his death and resurrection is about reconciling people to God. He came not to free the Jews from Rome, but to free all people from sin.

The irony is that the people are singing about peace as Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem. Yet Jesus is weeping because the true path to peace is hidden from their eyes even though it is right in front of them. Jesus brings true peace. After his resurrection, in John 20 his first words to the disciples are “Peace be with you.” Romans 5:1 says that we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. And this was prophesied by Zechariah in Luke 1 where he says that the Lord will guide our feet on the path of peace.

So this Easter Week as we remember Palm Sunday, Jesus’s last “Monday”, and look forward to remembering his sacrifice and resurrection, remember that political peace is not the goal. Don’t sing “Hosana” for Jesus because he is bringing political peace. That’s not true peace. Jesus wants to give you peace with God. Freedom from sin. Peace in his presence. I pray you “know on this day what would bring you peace” so that Jesus doesn’t have to weep for you.

May you be blessed by God’s word today.

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