The two contrasting 'triumphal entries' are described vividly in the following two quotes. Describing Pilates entry Borg and Crossan write that it was:
"A visual display of imperial power: cavalry on horses, foot solders, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun glinting on metal and gold. The sounds of the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of bridles, the beating of drums. The
swirling of dust.”
It was designed to be an intimidating show of force and a display of the Empire's power and might to crush their opponents.
Describing Jesus' triumphal entry Charles Campbell describes it thus:
“Riding on a colt, his feet possibly dragging on the ground, Jesus comes not as one who lords his authority over others, but as one who humbly rejects domination. He comes not with pomp and wealth, but as one identified with the poor. He comes not as a mighty warrior, but as one who is vulnerable and refuses to rely on violence. Jesus [is offering] a totally different understanding of “rule” and invites people to see and live in the world in a new way.”
Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is one of humility and vulnerability. “Humble and riding on a donkey” are the words from Zechariah that Jesus deliberately enacts as he proclaims a way of peace instead of violence and oppression. The words from Zechariah continue:
“He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations” (9.10).
Palm Sunday asks of us which triumphal entry we will be participants in. Will we follow the way of Caesar and the Roman Empire using force and violence to get our way or will we devote our lives, with Jesus, to build a kingdom of peace and love?
Does this mean that Jesus invites us simply to become victims in life? It is a really good question. This past week I read an article by a woman who reflects on a lifetime of sexual harassment and how she felt that the Christianity she grew up with taught her to remain silent in the face of abuse. As a teenager at school, she writes that she soon discovered her body was not her own as she found herself without invitation, pinched, groped and squeezed by boys in her school. Later in the corporate world she endured the same treatment by many of her male colleagues. She writes that at school she has memories of an Anglican Bishop preaching to them how in the face of abuse, Jesus was silent. In that lesson, she writes that she believed she had to simply silently endure harassment as a young woman and simply accept that her body was no longer her own. In her conclusion she writes, “Why did no-one teach me of the Jesus who invites us to speak out in Truth.” She quotes from John's Gospel where Jesus stands before Pilate and says: “...the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth...” and earlier in the Gospel where Jesus says “The truth will set you free”.
To follow the way of Jesus as opposed to the way of Caesar is not simply to become a silent sufferer or a doormat, but rather to find constructive ways of changing the culture of domination around us to one in which all people can find themselves affirmed and respected as people of infinite value, and thus to become part of Christ's kingdom of love.