red, white, and blue | john 12.12-13
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:12-13 | ESV
On the next day, excitement reached a fever pitch among the flocking pilgrims in anticipation of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem as the holy week kicked off with Lamb Selection Day. Grabbing and waving their palm branches – their red, white, and blue – they rushed out to meet him shouting their own coronation song, “Hoshan-na! God save the King! We welcome you, God’s man in God’s time armed with God’s power – the king of Israel!” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
We associate them with that Sunday, even naming it for them. They had other associations – and chiefly among them was a heavy political/religious association. The palm branch had come to be a symbol of Jewish independence, being rooted in the Maccabean Revolt that had taken place over a century and a half before that day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that donkey. It was their “red, white, and blue,” their “star-spangled banner.” And Passover was their Fourth of July. It was a politically and religiously charged atmosphere.
Even the word “hosanna” was dripping with political connotations.
We sing “hosanna” like we sing “hallelujah” – as a simple affirmation of faith and praise. But the more politically ladened “God save the king!” is probably closer to what the crowd was truly feeling and emoting through their use of it.
More patriotism than piety.
Patriotism and piety can be quite the volatile mix.
And while our piety should and will inform and shape our politics, too often the shaping takes place in the other direction. Piety hijacked by patriotic fervor. That volatile mix has launched crusades and inquisitions.
It can blind us to the reality he is trying to parade right before our eyes. It was not the high feast day on which Jesus entered, but Lamb Selection Day.
It was not a white charger with impressive steel on which he rode that day, but a donkey with tears.
And they missed him.
How often we still do.
How do you personally handle this volatile mix of piety and politics? How can we insure that our piety is informing our politics, and not the other way around?
Lord, remind me today that you are not only the Lion that roars but also the Lamb led to the slaughter. Help me to hold to the tension of these two aspects of who you are; help me to shaped by it, my faith and character molded by it, my actions thoroughly grounded in it. Through Jesus.