This day begins with celebration. After years of teaching and healing, of gathering up disciples and traveling around the region, Jesus makes his way towards Jerusalem. His followers and the crowds in Jerusalem are filled with joy and anticipation, praising God.
Why are these folks celebrating? What do they anticipate? Perhaps they expect that Jesus will transform the religious institutions of Jerusalem, becoming the new high priest, bringing new energy and inspiration to the faith. Perhaps they expect that Jesus will overthrow Roman rule and become the new King of the Jews, bringing justice to the poor and the oppressed. Such an amazing, spirit-filled leader as Jesus must be destined for some kind of greatness, once he enters into a place of power.
But, as we know, this is not what happens. Just like always, Jesus surprises us. Jesus knows that bringing his witness of the truth of God up against the powers that be isn’t likely to result in any kind of human victory. Authority resists challenge and change. Supremacy pushes back against revolution, whether spiritual or political. During Holy Week, we watch as person after person, system after system, fails to affirm or protect Jesus.
We may wish that our faith was centered around a different kind of story. A story in which God wins, without any tragedy along the way. But listen for the beauty in this story, the power in this story. Because if love survived evil back then, it could survive evil now. If God was with the humble and the broken then, perhaps she is with us, with them, even now. This is a story of great promise exactly because it deals with the most difficult and painful aspects of human life.
So let us listen now, to pieces of this sacred story as it is told in the Gospel of Luke. Instead of triumph, we will hear about controversy, conflict, uncertainty, betrayal, injustice, execution, and grief. Breathe deep, and enter in; there is yet good news, before this story ends.