Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pay Attention!

Our texts for this Palm Sunday are Luke 19:28-42 and Philippians 2:5-11, which can be read here.

You may think you do not need to read the Palm Sunday narrative again; this is one we've heard enough to have down.  Jesus rides donkey; people wave palms and cry "Hosanna"; giant mob raves over Jesus on Sunday, cries out "Crucify Him" on Friday morning.

If this is your assessment, please click the link above and read again.  You will notice that Luke's version of what happened on Jesus' entry to Jerusalem bears little resemblance to what I just described:

  • There were no palms or even "leafy branches" described by Luke, but only the people's cloaks laid along the road and atop the donkey (we get the palms from John's version; never worry, though, I won't make you all wave your coats during the opening hymn on Sunday--though it's kind of tempting!)
  • The traditional cry of "Hosanna" is not uttered; rather, we get a rephrasing of one of Luke's favorite calls, a one similar to that heard at Jesus' birth, is heard now again here: "Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!"  
  • We do not see huge crowds here, but rather just the "multitude of disciples"--those who have been following Jesus along this road.  It may have actually been a somewhat quiet, smaller brood than the throngs we imagine (though rowdy enough to get the attention of some Pharisees desperate to keep the peace!).  This also means that, at least in Luke's account, those who acclaim him in the Palm Sunday entry are not the same ones calling out for blood five days later.  The disciples fail him, yes, but they do not turn on him; they simply disappear.  I don't know if this is better or worse, but it is different.

So what do you make of these differences?  What kind of picture is Luke trying to paint of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem?  Consider this, then spend some time reading the events that will unfold later in the week--I might recommend reading on, to the events of Thursday and Friday, perhaps in a version such as The Message.  How does Luke's entry set the stage for the more somber story he will tell a few chapters--a few days--later?  What do we need to pay attention to in this familiar story that we may have overlooked?

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