by Joe Alain

This content is part of a series.

The Last Week: (Palm) Sunday (1 of 8)
Series: The Last Week of Jesus' Life
Joe Alain
Mark 11:1-11

[Inspiration and ideas found in the sermon introduction, as well as other sections of the sermon comes from John Dominic Crossan's vivid descriptions in his work, The Last Week]

Two processions entered Jerusalem on a spring day in the year A.D. 30. It was the beginning of the week of Passover, the most sacred week of the Jewish year. In the centuries since, Christians have celebrated this day as Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week. With its climax of Good Friday and Easter, it is the most sacred week of the Christian year.

One was a procession of ordinary people, peasants, working class, the other an imperial procession. From the east, Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives, cheered by his followers. Jesus was from the lowly peasant village of Nazareth, his message was about the kingdom of God, and his followers came from the ordinary class of people. They had journeyed to Jerusalem from Galilee, about a hundred miles to the north, a journey that is a central theme of Mark's gospel. Mark's story of Jesus and the kingdom of God has been aiming for Jerusalem, pointing toward Jerusalem. It has now arrived.

On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers. Jesus' procession proclaimed the kingdom of God; Pilate's proclaimed the power of empire. The two processions highlight two different visions of the kingdom and the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus' crucifixion.

Pilate's military procession was a demonstration of both Roman imperial power and Roman imperial theology. Though unfamiliar to most people today, the imperial procession would have been well known by Mark and the first followers of Jesus. It was the standard practice of the Roman governors of Judea to be in Jerusalem for the m ...

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