28 March 2010

Luke 23:1-49

"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children ... For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (v.28, 31)


It is traditional at the beginning of Holy Week (when we remember the events of the final week of Jesus' life) to read the story of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:29-40) and to re-enact it by waving green palms. But it is also traditional to hear the story of Jesus' trial and death and to fold the palms into crosses to mark the manner of Jesus' death and all the horrors perpetrated in the name of justice since.

One of the themes of Palm Sunday is the kingship of Jesus but, unlike a triumphant Roman hero, Jesus did not enter Jerusalem on a stallion, crowned with laurels; rather he came on a donkey and the elegant robe put on him by Herod's soldiers was intended as a sick joke (Matthew 27:27-31). A joke taken up later by the Roman soldiers as they cast lots for it saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!"

Also unlike a Roman hero, Jesus did not parade into Jerusalem with armed soldiers and captured slaves (indeed, when one of Jesus' disciples had injured a slave in the arresting party, Jesus had stopped the violence and healed him - Luke 22:50-51). Rather, Jesus was accompanied by the "daughters of Jerusalem" - not only the women of the city, but all the poor who lived on the outskirts, beyond the protecting walls of the mother city. Those who, like Jesus, were vulnerable to the political machinations of kings.

Finally, unlike a Roman hero, Jesus had not been granted a triumphal procession by the leaders of the city for services to the state. In fact the Roman occupiers and the Jewish national leaders could not recognise Jesus' kingship as anything other than a political threat or as blasphemy. As is often the case today it was not the leaders, but rather ordinary people who could see what was really happening and share in its tragedy... a black man from Libya, forced to carry the beam of Jesus' cross; a criminal crucified with him; a centurion who heard him breathe his last; and the women who had followed him from Galilee who stood at a distance, watching these things (verses 26-49).

To Ponder

How would you describe the horror of what is happening in this passage?

In what circumstances do you think Christ is being condemned today? Who notices?

What do you think made Jesus - the king of the universe - subject himself to the political machinations of human beings?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jane Leach

Jane writes on ministry, pastoral supervision and pilgrimage..