Palm Sunday – “Fight Like Jesus” review

Part 1 of “Fight Like Jesus” by Jason Porterfield can be seen by clicking here.

In part one I gave a quick overview of the book. Today I’m looking at the first day of Holy Week – Palm Sunday. Porterfield claims that if you want to understand Holy Week, then you need to look at Jesus entering into Jerusalem, especially Luke 19:41-42: “As [Jesus] came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

I included this passage in the processional Gospel for Palm Sunday and preached based on this idea. You can see the reading of the Passion Narrative along with my sermon here:

Porterfield argues that Palm Sunday is all about contrast between the hammer and the lamb. It’s certainly about Pilate entering into the city on his horse and with his Roman troops in contrast to Jesus riding on a donkey with a rag tag group of disciples. But it’s also more than that.

If you want to understand Holy Week and why people go from cheering Jesus on yelling “Hosanna! Hosanna!” to “Crucify him! Crucify him!” in the course of just a few days, then it helps to understand some history and expectations.

“All thoughts of resisting Rome were futile. Revolt was suicidal. Dreams of independence were crushed. Hope was deterred. Riding atop his warhorse, flanked by imperial might, Pilate knew that the mere sight of Rome’s power had been enough to deter any thought of rebellion. He had won. Or so he thought.” (Pg. 29).

Rebellion and revolt was a common issue in Jerusalem. It’s why Pilate makes his grand entrance just before Passover. To put down any possible rebellion before it started.

And in the midst of this, along comes Jesus. “It would be the confrontation of two competing ideologies, the collision of two incompatible approaches to making and maintaining peace.” (Pg. 30).

But this isn’t just a conflict between Rome and Jesus. This is a conflict between humanity’s way of doing things and Jesus’ way of peace.

The people had an expectation of a savior – one who would save them from Rome, through the hammer and sword. It’s not only what they expected, but it’s what they wanted. And this is based on their history. It goes back to 167BC when the Seleucid Empire ruled over Israel. Their king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the Temple and demanded worship of his gods. A rebellion broke out that eventually lead to the removal of the Seleucids and the cleansing of the Temple. Judas Maccabees was the hero, a type of savior, for Jerusalem. Maccabees means hammer. And he wielded it to bring salvation to Israel. This is what people expected their savior would do and how he would operate – he would drop the hammer on Rome, not do what Jesus was planning – to end the hammer. To bring peace. No wonder the people rejected him. He rejected their version of a savior. But God had other plans.

Porterfield offers three lessons for Palm Sunday:

  1. Christlike peacemakers move towards conflict. “They don’t ignore it. They don’t hide from it. They don’t pretend it doesn’t exist…If we are to become practitioners fo Jesus’ approach to peacemaking, then we must be willing to enter into conflict. We must seek out those places where God’s shalom is painfully absent.” (Pg. 38)
  2. Christlike peacemakers extend peace to all people. We are called to “work for the peace of all people, not just some…But if all were to be beneficiaries of Jesus’ peace, then such peace could not be attained through the world’s usual means. It could not be achieved through force, for only one side wins when peace is pursued through violence. The weapons of war cannot build a peaceful world for all; their purpose is to brind about destruction. They are instruments of death, not life. They are tools that harm, not heal.” (pg. 39)
  3. Christlike peacemakers follow the way of the Lamb. “Jesus also intentionally subverted his own people’s paradigm for peacemaking…Though they were enemies, Jesus’ admirers and Pilate’s army both believed in the power of the hammer to contract peace. They believed the making and maintaining of peace was achieved with force. Both parties embraced the world’s approach to peacemaking, and Jesus was confronting it head-on…He was not the Hammer of God. He was the Lamb of God.” (Pg. 40)

Tomorrow I’ll turn to Monday of Holy Week.

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