Archive for March, 2015

Palm Sunday & Non-violent Resistance

Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (1320) by Pietro Lorenzetti

Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (1320) by Pietro Lorenzetti

Perhaps the most frequent gospel reading for Palm Sunday is Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-10).

This is the scene in which Jesus is riding into the city of Jerusalem upon the colt of a donkey, amid the excited shouting of a crowd,

     Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
     Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
     Hosanna in the highest heaven!
     (Mark 11:9-10)

What is going on here? What are we to read into this scene?

Jerusalem was located in Judea, which during the first century was occupied and ruled by Rome. This was a contentious rule, literally maintained through the strength of the sword. The ancient historian Josephus informs us of several major uprisings and a number of smaller revolts against Roman rule. Some of these were violent uprisings and others were peaceful forms of resistance.

An especially turbulent and potentially violent period reoccurred annually during the celebration of the Jewish festival Freedom and Redemption (Pesachof in Hebrew; Passover in English). This festival celebrates the Jewish exodus from Egypt. It requires only a small leap of imagination to see the parallels between liberation from slavery in Egypt and how suffering under the rule of Rome might renew a call for freedom.

Clearly, Roman rulers would take extraordinary precautions during the week of Passover, and any disturbances were crushed ruthlessly. This is why prior to the festival of Passover, Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea, marched from Caesarea Maritima into Jerusalem. This would have been an impressive display of imperial power, with Pontius Pilate mounted upon a war horse.

Jesus riding a colt into Jerusalem is the antithesis of Roman rule and domination by force. Jesus was signaling an alternative vision of rule, which those who were familiar with his teaching would have known to be the kingdom of the Holy Blessing One (God) on earth.

But Jesus was also signaling his was a peaceful, nonviolent form of resistance. Pilate rides a war horse. Jesus rides a colt. But make no mistake, it was a demonstration of resistance against Roman authority and power (which is why Jesus was executed by Rome).

“What we call Palm Sunday featured a choice of two kingdoms, two visions of life on earth” (Borg, “Jesus” pg. 232).

To Which Kingdom Do You Pledge Allegiance?

The subtext would have been obvious to those gathering in Jerusalem. The choice is between the kingdom of Mammon (wealth, riches, Caesar) and the kingdom of the Holy Blessing One (God).

Both refer to an earthly kingdom, which is a point often lost. Jesus was a strong proponent of reforming this world, by transforming our own consciousness, and by transforming the community in which we live. And we transform our community by transforming the lives of persons living in our community.

It all begins with a choice. Do we pledge allegiance to the kingdom of Mammon, or to the kingdom of God? Do we choose to live in Darkness, or to live in Light? This is the choice Jesus acted out as he rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey.

May the Lord bless you and keep you,


Borg, Marcus “Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary” (pgs. 229-232).

Ehrman, Bart “The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings” (3rd Ed., Ch. 15, pgs. 231-249).

Josephus (Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – c. 100), born Joseph ben Matityahu)
Antiquities 14.2.1. 21-28; Ant. 17.9.3 213; Ant. 18.2.2 29; Wars of the Jews 2.1.3 10;

Image: Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (1320) by Pietro Lorenzetti (Wikicommons).

Mammon: a Chaldee or Syriac word meaning “wealth” or “riches” (Luke 16:9-11); also, by personification, the god of riches (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:9-11). Online reference:

Mark 11:1-10 (NRSV)

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”


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