Yesterday in worship we once again acted out Palm Sunday with the children. In preparation I got down some of the Christmas pageant costumes from the attic, which inspired me to incorporate more characters than I usually do.
I had two of the larger men of the congregation wearing Roman soldier armor and helmets. When I asked them who their king is, they improvised well: “Caesar!”
Most of the children dressed up as the disciples who stood at the side of the road. They knew who their king is: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38a) Their king is Jesus, played by six year old Mark, riding into town on a donkey, played by fourteen year old Ryan.
There are no angels described in the account, but they were surely there, unseen. I was struck by the fact that in Luke’s Gospel the words of the disciples welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem echo the words of the angels announcing to the poor shepherds the birth of the savior:
“Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (19:38b) As in his birth, Jesus comes to the little people, announcing a peace altogether different from “Pax Romana” — the peace established by soldiers waiting to crush any uprising. At the last supper Jesus would speak again of his kind of peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:25-27)
Luke doesn’t mention palm branches, but he does describe how the disciples placed their cloaks on the road for Jesus to ride over. And so our children took off the multi-colored pieces of fabric I had given them, making a rainbow of colors down the center aisle upon which Jesus could arrive.
Two thousand years later, Caesar is long gone, but the king who came to town riding on a donkey, welcomed by the little people, is still proclaimed King. “Teacher,” yelled some Pharisees present, “order your disciples to stop.” “I tell you,” answered Jesus, “if these were silent, even the stones would shout out.”
O God, help us to recognize the true king in the one who came to town riding on a donkey. Let us know the peace of heaven that it may break forth in this troubled world. In Jesus name. Amen.