It seems to have been a low-key protest. Welcoming as king this popular rabbi riding on a donkey. All of them waving palm branches. Yet that crowd had disappeared by Friday when another false messiah was executed. Of course, we Christians believe that we did indeed get a new King the following Sunday. Just one we’re not so sure about — with his riding donkeys and overturning tables in a Temple.
So some of us wave palms on this special Sunday. Many will hunt eggs and candies with their kids on Easter. Yet I suspect that most who enjoy such festivity are either unaware of or just don’t want to think about that the meaning of that first parade and the kind of king we’re celebrating. (I’m the latter.)
It really was a moment of revolution, against both the Temple Establishment and Roman Rule. Why else would those powers collaborate in crucifying him? Pilate’s sign on the cross made it contemptuously clear: INRI (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews).
Of course, most of those original palm-wavers were hoping for some big miraculous event to change things. They were not insurrectionists.
And expectations of some such “apocalypse” lingered for years among both Jews and Christians. They still raise fear and hope in contemporary imaginations. Yet most of us have learned that real change for the better – for justice – comes slowly, with great difficulty and infrequent miracles.
Perhaps that’s why we’d rather enjoy chocolate Easter Bunnies.
Fortunately, the memory of that donkey and those over-turned tables has continued to provoke protest over millennia. And still today, if only implicitly, in our BLM and Me-2 protests, and in so many secular and religious movements for that “kingdom” Jesus was killed for preaching. And in the miraculous appearance among us of flawed saints like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, and the ordinary saints we all know.