Year after year, every Palm Sunday, I ask the same questions: who would I have been, had I been with Jesus? And how long would it have taken for me to reject him? I’m sure I wouldn’t have been one of the strong or virtuous ones. I’m sure, like everyone else who doesn’t know what’s good for them, I would have flipped on him after I welcomed him into the city.
But this weekend’s readings offer me more to meditate on than my own guilt. And a careful reading, past the narrative highlights that we remember from our Sunday school Bible summaries and into the details that we tend to tune out, might answer the third question that troubles me every year during Holy Week: what makes us shout “Crucify Him!”?
Elsewhere Scripture tells us Jesus was like us in all things but sin, as if sin is just a tiny detail rather than a life long struggle and a state of being. When I read “he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped” I am supposed to commend him, but my core is perplexed, because of course we all want to be like God.
When I hear him say “let the greatest among you be as the youngest and the leader as the servant” I can’t help but want to write him off: what the heck have I been working so hard for, if all I get is to be a servant?
The message from Pope Francis last week was similar: Non dimentichiamo mai che il vero potere è il servizio – let us never forget that true power is service.
Strength is in weakness. Power is in humility. I know this, and I don’t, or I don’t want to. I cheer when our Pope makes this statement, and then I return to my little life driven by the desire for power and recognition.
So I come back to the same realization I have every year at this time. I am so glad that I wasn’t there, waving palm branches on the road to Jerusalem. As surely as I rail against God when too much sacrifice is asked of me, when life unfolds in ways that require a humility I can’t fathom, as surely as I give God the silent treatment and won’t hand myself over, as surely as I am weak I would spin my praise into rage and condemnation along with the rest of the people who later this week will shout “Crucify Him!”