As we enter Palm Sunday in the shadow of war, in a world of confusion and chaos, Christ the coming King comes with deep challenge about how to hold power, and how to use it.Palm Sunday is a day of contrasts. A king, who arrives on a lowly donkey. A royal welcome for a poor, itinerant rabbi. A crowd who is eagerness to listen, and yet ambivalent to act.
Palm Sunday is day of joy, yet, lingering in the background, we know this is the start of Holy Week: we are in the shadow of the Cross.
Palm Sunday is demanding; it asks us to look at our lives, and ask, who are you waiting for – and are you really ready to follow?
The king that is coming is a king that confounds all expectations. He does not come in power and might, he does not dazzle or overwhelm. He comes in humility, and invites rather than coerces. How often do we want a God who comes in and sweeps away problems, evil or conflict? We are given a king who doesn’t fight his enemies, but submits to them; who isn’t victorious in battle but dies the humiliating death of a criminal. And yet, he is king. The idea that there is a king is somewhat offensive. The idea that human structures of power are not final, that their ideas of self-sufficiency are mistaken, that humans need God as king, to learn to order their lives well, alone and together, is not popular. It challenges the idea that I know best. That we know best.
Palm Sunday demands humility in every way: in our ideas of power and status, but even more so, in our understanding of ourselves as we come before God. Humility is dangerous, because it both challenges the powers that be, and refuses to respond to their challenge with force and conflict. Palm Sunday inevitably leads to the cross.