JOPLIN, Mo. —
My 8-year-old grandson's first pro football game was a memorable affair. Chiefs vs. Broncos, and of course, he was a Chiefs fan.
Immediately, he was drawn to the cheerleaders and their program. Throughout the game, he cheered their cheers and gyrated with their gyrations. By the end of the game, he knew all their routine, words and moves.
Here's the kicker: At game's end, he looked at me and asked, "Did we win?" He loved the cheering, he had a marvelous time and he missed the game.
Consider with me Palm Sunday. Might it be possible to sing Hosanna and miss the game? What was on the mind of Jesus? Is there a clue to his thoughts? I believe so, and therein lies the meaning of Palm Sunday.
Jesus faced a major problem: Popular opinion was that he would restore Israel to its prominence; things would be like they were when David was king. But Jesus would have nothing to do with this expectation, and Palm Sunday was to be a huge statement to that fact.
It was the Passover, and Jesus headed to Jerusalem for its observance. The Passover commemorated and celebrated the exodus of Israel from bondage in Egypt. Jews from far and wide, including Jesus and the disciples, packed themselves into Jerusalem for this feast. It was like a political convention arriving in town.
Whenever the Jews would gather in such numbers, Rome grew anxious. Rome was always on the watch for threats of revolts, especially in these days with this upstart Galilean talking such nonsense. His popularity was on the rise.
For these occasions, when the possibility of revolt was real, the Roman officials made a grand show of strength. However, Pontius Pilate lived about 60 miles from Jerusalem, thereby escaping big city noise and traffic.
So as Jesus made preparation to enter Jerusalem, Pilate was preparing his own trip to the city. As Pilate climbed aboard his majestic chariot, Jesus climbed onto the back of the small colt selected for this occasion.
Pilate's entourage, imperial and military in nature, was more than impressive. It was composed of elite Roman officials and groomed, finely-tuned troops. The word entourage cannot be applied to Jesus' little band of disciples escorted by applauding peasants.
The stage was set for a showdown between the two contrasting ways of living life -- the broad versus the narrow, the two kingdoms. A bird's-eye view of Jerusalem on this first Palm Sunday would have presented these two caravans moving into Jerusalem on what looked to be a collision course, which indeed it was. Jesus had well-orchestrated his arrival to highlight the contrast between the culture of God's kingdom and that of Rome.
These two caravans travel down through the centuries since the first Palm Sunday. People today, as then, are confronted with this choice each and every Palm Sunday -- two differing ways of living, two contrasting standards.
What looks to be power and might in one kingdom looks nothing like the power and might of the other. Standards of success in one kingdom are different in the other. Treasure in one is valued less in the other. Acceptable norms in one kingdom are unacceptable in the other. What is wise in one kingdom is unwise in the other.
In short, the kingdom of God looks nothing like any kingdom of the world. The question Palm Sunday asks is this: Which of the two ways does our life resemble?
Craig Tally is the senior minister of First Community Church in Joplin. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.