“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Western Christianity is obsessed with winning. We frame political events and cultural movements as religious “wins” and “loses.” We think about power, constantly, incessantly. We use power language about fighting and winning war even when we talk about withdrawing from the World: “Might as well remove ourselves from society,” we say mournfully. “We lost the Culture Wars.”
And then we preach Palm Sunday as if the only people who ever missed the Main Lesson were the crowds and the religious leaders from the past. “The people expected a Warrior King on a War Horse with a Sword,” we’ll say solemnly. “They didn’t expect a gentle king riding in on a donkey. They wanted someone to overthrow the Empire and give them economic, social, religious prosperity and power.” Mmmm. Amen, pastor. Those sinful ancient people, clinging to their ideas about power instead of accepting a sacrificial, slaughtered servant-king.
Those ancient people that thought their king would be all about winning war. They killed him because they didn’t want to give up on war. They didn’t want a King that came without war.
We don’t want that king, either.
Which means we’d kill Him, too.
I’m not here to win wars, Jesus warns us. I’m not here to turn over the tables of the political establishment in your favor. I’m not here to win at all. I’m here to get hit in the face, and turn my head so you can hit me again. I’m here to not fight back when they execute me. I’m here to tell you to put away your sword.
And just like the ancient people, we are so committed to our swords that we’ll use them to kill God before we’ll put them down.
Take a hard look at the crowd that celebrated the Messiah a week before they decided that they’d rather kill Him with their swords than put their swords down in His name. There is nothing new under the sun.