Palm Sunday starts off Holy Week which is a week of paradox.
When ancient armies vanquished their enemies they would come back to their capital city with all the treasure they could carry. It was like a big parade.
In Rome, when the conquering heroes came back the parade has a name. It is called the “Roman Triumph.”
This would include people to be made slaves and finally the last take all the treasure from the foreign land they conquered, including people to be made slaves and the last person to be dragged in would be the vanquished King. He would be on display for all the jeer, and then they publicly execute the King for all to see.
But with Jesus, God does the opposite.
As Paul writes in Colossians 2,
God made you alive together with Jesus, joyously and freely putting you on the right path. 14 He blotted out the handwriting that was against us, opposing us with its legal demands. He took it right out of the way, by nailing it to the cross. 15 He stripped the rulers and authorities of their armor, and displayed them contemptuously to public view, celebrating his triumph over them in him.
This is what happens when God turns Good Friday into Easter Sunday. The great paradox. Out of great weakness comes ultimate power. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, yet.
So, here comes Jesus riding into Jerusalem first. We know things won’t go well for him this week. He is called the King Israel, but what kind of a king?
Instead of a chariot or a war horse, he is riding on the back of a small donkey like a peasant. He is showing no signs of military might as he walks into town. His army is a bunch of people waving palm branches. Not much of a weapon against a spear or a sword. But this army of Jesus is mainly made up of people following him since they saw him raise Lazarus from the dead. Why use a sword or spear when you have the power to raise the dead.
So, Jesus, the conquering King, comes into town without an army, bearing no treasures, just who is he?
The people who follow Jesus don’t know what they are doing, but Jesus does. Think on this.
Then on Maundy Thursday evening Jesus continues the week of paradox. He tells his disciples to prepare a passover meal. They do this, but there is no host. So they have no servants there to wash their dirty feet. When you eat in Bible days you lay around on cushions on the floor. You are nose to toes, as it were. And since your feet are filthy from the dust, you don’t to be eating with someones feet in your face.
No on jumps up to volunteer to wash feet like a servant would do. Then Jesus, the King of the Universe gets up puts on his foot-washing uniform and washes everyone’s feet himself. The master takes on the role of the servant. And then he says,
“Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord. You speak accurately, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
So, Jesus turns the whole world upside down, again. There are to be no masters only those who serve each other.
What does washing the feet of others tell you about Jesus?
On to the next day, Good Friday. Somehow the crowds who are following Jesus because he raised Lazarus from the dead at the beginning of the week have an instant change of heart by the end of the week.
On Sunday they cry out, “Hosanna, Blessed is He who come in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!”
On Friday the crowd starts shouting again.
12 Pilate answered them again, “What then would you have me do to Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”
13 They again cried out, “Crucify Him!”
14 Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?”
But they cried out even more, “Crucify Him!”
And so the conquering King becomes the vanquished King. He is finally given his parade. Jesus is forced to march up the hill of Calvary with his execution instrument on his back.
The King of the Jews is the vanquished King after all. He is paraded as a spectacle on the Via Delarosa, literally the “way of pain.”
The King of the Universe in killed on the cross.
But the cross is going to be the ultimate paradox.
Here is the cross above the site where Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem.
What everyone thought was weakness turns out to be ultimate power.
The cross is the intersection between heaven and earth.
Go ahead and look at a cross. Or better yet, draw a cross.
Now look at the cross. What’s the first thing your eyes are are drawn to?
The intersection of the vertical line and the horizontal line.
This intersection teaches us much.
Think of the vertical line as the path of God and the horizontal line the path of people.
The cross becomes the intersection between heaven and earth.
We meet God in the cross in the man Jesus.
We meet God in the here and the now.
The cross focuses us on the middle at the intersection.
The Cross draws us into the present.
The cross focuses in like the crosshairs of a rifle scope.
Only the target in the Holy Spirit. The cross focus on the Spirit where all power lies. Spiritual power is the only real power that lasts forever.
There is something about the power of the cross. It represents the power of strength coming out of weakness. When Jesus is raised from the dead, all people learn that spiritual power is infinitely greater than any physical power you try to use against it.
So, you mess with the cross at your peril.
In Bavaria in Germany it is traditional to have a crucifix in every school classroom. Of course, that will never do. So, recently there was a movement to have all the crucifixes taken out of the school classrooms. Better minds realized you don’t want to mess with the one behind the meaning of that crucifix. They left the crosses where they were.
There is something about the cross.
God choose to have his son crucified on the cross.
There is power there.
When you are praying, look at the cross.
Vertical us and God.
Horizontal us and them.
When you are anxious look at the cross. When you worry about the future or you focus on bad things from the past, anxiety is right around the corner.
But, what if you focus on the intersection between the past and the future? There it is. Joy is in the present.
The Cross draws you into the present.
So begins our week of paradox. We join Jesus these next days as he shows us our best true selves. Surrounding our lives to him, we discover who we really are. People of potency and power. What looks like death and defeat on the cross, becomes the most powerful victory. We join in that victory as we join Jesus on that cross.
When you look at a cross, what do you see?