Today is the day, the day of the triumphal entry. Jesus enters into Jerusalem and people praise his name. The crowd shouts, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:9-10) The crowd is excited and so sure that Jesus is the one, the Messiah, the mighty leader who can immediately turn their unjust world upside down—take the kingdom back from the Romans, liberate them from the oppression, and restore their glorious days in the coming new kingdom of justice and peace.
But honestly, Jesus’ entry was not exactly a triumphal one. In fact, it was quite far from the “triumphal” entry. The crowd of Jesus’ days knew well what a triumphal entry meant in the Roman world and how it looked like. The so-called “Roman Triumph” was a spectacular and extravagant ceremony. It was a public show-off celebrating a success of a military commander who led Roman forces to victory or successfully completed a foreign war. On the day of his triumphal entry, the commander wore a crown of laurel and the all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal robe that made him look like a near-divine person. And he rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome with the array of his army, captives, and the spoils of his war.
Compared to this magnificent triumphal entry, the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was just a poor, small town parade. Of course, Jesus didn’t wear all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal robe to show off his divinity. He was just in his humble cloths that may have been worn out through his long and rough journey to Jerusalem. There was never a four-horse chariot as such for Jesus to ride. He only asked his disciples to bring a donkey…a poor little donkey for a ride! Jesus had no army to display his power. He only had his disciples, just a disorderly bunch including a rebel, a tax collector, and many Galilean fishermen.
As I imagine the day of Jesus’ entry, I’m quite confident that the crowd couldn’t find any triumphant features from Jesus and his disciples. Instead, his entry was lowly. I think they were very frustrated. But they were somehow still cheering and keeping their expectations because they heard so many stories about Jesus’ miracles and great things he had done. But, as we know, it didn’t take too long for them to turn their back from Jesus completely. As soon as the crowd realized that their expectations would never be met by Jesus, as soon as they knew that Jesus could never be that kind of leader they wanted and waited for, some of them just returned to their mundane lives, some of them got infuriated and shouted before Pilate, “Crucify him!” To this crowd, Jesus was no longer ‘Jesus the mighty’ or ‘Jesus the victor’. He could be called ‘Jesus the humble’ or ‘Jesus the little.’ And the crowd…finally, all of them left Jesus, as he walked his way to be ‘Jesus the crucified.’
Even though the crowd despised Jesus and left him, some people still stayed with Jesus. They were people without power, without honor. They were just little people. But the Gospel of Mark doesn’t overlook them. Mark gives us at least a brief sketch of these little people. Here, I’m talking about the two disciples who were sent into a village to get a donkey for Jesus. Although they didn’t understand why Jesus wanted a donkey as his transportation—not a grand four-horse chariot, they anyway obeyed Jesus. And through this obedience, they prepared the way of him. And I’m also talking about Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. He was just a passer-by, but he was pulled out of the crowd to carry the cross for Jesus. Although he was compelled to do so, he certainly shared Jesus’ burden that day. And I shouldn’t forget to tell you about the faithful women disciples of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. They had been the sincere helpers of Jesus since his days in Galilee. They had been following him all the way to Jerusalem and keeping Jesus’ side even at the moment of his crucifixion. Contrastingly from the crowd, these little people didn’t impose their own desires on Jesus or see him as they wanted him to be. They just followed Jesus or stayed around him. So when Jesus needed someone, it was these people who could serve him even in little ways.
On this Palm Sunday, as we enter into Holy Week, I hope and pray that we ask ourselves these questions in all seriousness: Where am I standing? “Am I standing among the crowd now?” Or “Am I standing beside Jesus?” “Just like the crowd, am I asking Jesus to be my super hero, asking him to make something triumphal and spectacular in my life?” Or “Am I standing beside Jesus and preparing his way even in a little way, although I don’t understand his way fully, although I may get burdened to bear his cross, although for now I may see only the suffering way of Calvary?” “Where am I standing now?”
Sisters and brothers in Christ, this week, let us stay away from the crowd and stay close to Jesus a little more. Whenever we want our ways to be the ways of triumphal procession, whenever we want Jesus to change our lives in the way we are pleased, let us stop there and think about the little people who closely served Jesus. And let us do little things for Jesus. We can say a little prayer for those who need it; or share some food with the people around us; or participate in our church’s ministry; or call someone who is in illness or you haven’t seen for a while. We can show a little kindness to our friends and families. I believe these little things we do in the name of Jesus…even though they don’t receive a good recognition or reward, I am sure that they can be great steps for God’s mission to advance. Where are you standing now? Let us stay closer to Jesus and follow him. And let us focus more on what we can do for Jesus even in our little ways than what we want from Jesus. In our little ways, in this Holy Week, let us pave his great entry into this world, into our church, into more people’s life and heart, and prepare the way of his coming Kingdom on earth. Amen.
Pastor Earl Kim