By Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
A rural peasant who has made a name for himself as an itinerate preacher and healer comes to the big city. His reputation precedes him and he is greeted like a celebrity. Perhaps feeling empowered by this enthusiastic welcome, he makes his pilgrimage to the Temple only to find greed and usury, and he throws a fit. He is not only noticed as a celebrity who draws crowds, but now as someone who dares to cause a public disturbance in a State sanctioned place. And then he has the temerity to draw another crowd and proceed to teach them in the courts of that very building. This is probably the day that sealed Jesus’ fate.
He can attract crowds, excite large groups of people, and he has the nerve to confront institutions that exist within the Roman system. He could be a threat. Some people are already claiming that he is or could be a king, but not a puppet king appointed by the Emperor. This is the day that will lead to the final plots against him, to his arrest, trial, conviction, and execution.
In this view of the story, Jesus’ death isn’t caused by God, but for the kingdom/
kin-dom/community of God. This view doesn’t glorify the violence done to Jesus, but does affirm Jesus’ courage in the face of violence. And, of course, at Easter we will celebrate the Good News that the violent and tragic end wasn’t the end of the story at all! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For Palm Sunday it is enough to remember that sometimes standing up for justice comes with a price. As followers of Jesus, are we willing to pay it?