Bible Readings: John 19:16b-22 [12:12-27]
Free Resources: Celebration to Mourning (Cross+Gen Worship)
Lenten Theme (March 11 – March 25): God’s Kingdom Revealed
“Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord- the King of Israel!” (John 12:13)
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” (John 19:19)
With today’s Palm (and/or Passion) Sunday celebration, we move into Holy Week. If you have been following the assigned Narrative Lectionary readings, then you have already spent four weeks in the events of Jesus’ passion, which is why the Triumphal Entry is given as an optional reading, a nod toward the tradition of Palm Sunday. But, whether you have chosen to focus on one, the other, or both readings, John’s theme of Jesus as King is continued.
The King for the People
Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem for the last time is specifically set up as a fulfillment of the prophecy given to Zechariah years before. Symbolically, he is claiming to be the Messiah, the promised King. The “great crowd” is ecstatic; here is the one they have been waiting for, the one who will save Israel from their oppressors, the Romans. If you read the context of the quote from Zechariah 9:9, you can see where the crowd is getting this expectation.
Then I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that no one shall march to and fro; no oppressor shall again overrun them, for now I have seen with my own eyes. (Zech. 9:8)
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem…and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea. (Zech. 9:10)
I will arouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword. (Zech. 9:13)
The King for the Leaders
The religious leaders of Israel are not ignorant of this expectation. Jesus is not the first popular leader to claim to be the messiah. They don’t believe this, so to head off a conflict with Rome that they are sure Israel would lose, they take action to stop this would-be-ruler, even collaborating with the enemy, the Romans. They think that Jesus is a false king who will bring nothing but ruin to the people.
“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.” (John 11:48)
A Different Kind of King
However, we know the story. Jesus is indeed the Messiah, but he did not become God-with-us to conquer and rule with the sword. He is a different kind of king from their expectations. He will indeed defeat the oppressors of the people and set up an everlasting kingdom, but again, these are not what the people expect. Through humble, non-violent self-sacrifice Jesus defeats the powers of sin and death. The kingdom he establishes is the upside-down kingdom of God that breaks in and takes root in our broken world. He does not engage the Romans on their terms but engages the whole world on his terms: justice, peace, and love.
The contrast between the events of Palm Sunday and Good Friday is one of the defining characteristics of Christ’s passion and our observance of Holy Week. This contrast is brought into a worship experience described in this week’s free resource “Celebration to Mourning.” This activity comes from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship product and is designed to engage all ages.
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
2018-2019 (NL Year 1) faith formation materials are now available for purchase! Fall lessons can be downloaded right away!
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!
Be sure to download our free Narrative Lectionary 2017-2018 Planning Tool and Scope & Sequence to help in your preparation! You can download the 2018-2019 Planning Tool and Scope & Sequence as well!
Image Copyright: anyka / 123RF Stock Photo
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