Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This year, we read John’s version of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. Rather than compare John to the other three Gospels and point out the differences—and there are many—let’s just look at John’s version, to see what John is telling us about Jesus.
If we remember the feeding of the 5,000 in John’s Gospel… The people, when they saw the miracle, decided that Jesus was the Promised One, and they tried to make Jesus into the king they wanted. Someone who would defeat the Romans and restore the glory of Israel. In fact, they were ready to make Jesus their king, against his will. Jesus is not the kind of king the people are looking for, and he escapes their attempt to force him into that role.
These are the same people we hear calling Jesus the King of Israel and waving palm branches—a sign of victory used when a king returned triumphant from war. These are the same crowds who witnessed Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The same crowds that are still convinced that Jesus will defeat the Romans and reinstate the earthly kingdom of Israel.
The religious leaders were already afraid of this happening in chapter 11 of John’s Gospel:
The chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, "What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation."
And the religious leaders were correct in their fear. The Romans did destroy the temple, and kill thousands of Israelites, just 30 years later when there was a rebellion. We will see the culmination of this fear as we read the Passion today. And as we walk through Holy Week, we will see what happens when fear takes hold of people.
As we walk through Holy Week, we can ponder what it is that we fear about following Jesus. For the religious leaders, it was the loss of power, and also the possible destruction of their homeland. When we follow Jesus, we do not lose power, but we are called to give up power. We are called to allow Jesus to enter our hearts and transform our fears into love—love for our neighbors and love for our enemies. I pray that we will be able to allow Jesus to take over our lives this Holy Week, and for the rest of our lives. Amen.