A Different Kind of Bloodline
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Combining into one liturgy the “Hosanna!” of the triumphal palm procession and the “Crucify him!” of the passion drama—especially as filtered through Paul’s image of the “exalted” slave—invites a meditation on the mystery of Jesus’ sovereignty.
How can we Americans or Canadians grasp what it means to have or want a king when we reject the notion that bloodline conveys the right to rule? And yet, thanks to fairy tales, the Arthurian legends, and Shakespeare we have some inkling of the power, privilege, and even “divine rights” of royalty. We can use our imaginations to muster up a rousing “Ride on, King Jesus!” Then we can appreciate the incongruity: this king has to borrow a donkey, a room, and a tomb. Then, even more confounding, is that this king, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited” and even borrows our human likeness—including our death (Phil. 2:6).
Judas and Pilate are symbols of all humanity—including the church, to its shame—in their desire for a grand royal gesture: start a revolution, call in your army, dazzle us with eloquent testimony. Jesus resists every such temptation and embraces the mortal human scale of his limited earthly reign.
Jesus prophesied that when he was lifted up all the world would be drawn to him; Philippians proclaims that “every knee should bend” and “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” So, whose knee will bow at the name of Jesus? All those who, following Jesus and trusting the faithfulness of God, are drawn to attend fully to human life, need, and mortality.
In monarchy, leaders lead by virtue of divine sanction of a particular bloodline. Our fond hope is that leadership is bestowed on the basis of merit, hard work, and authentic charisma. Our cynical fear is that it is bestowed on the basis of money, influence, and cronyism. The witness of Passion Sunday is that Jesus’ credential is innocent blood shed in obedience to God for the sake of the broken.
Gospel: Mark 11:1-10
Jesus enters Jerusalem
1When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, [Jesus] sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’ ” 4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”