Was Jesus a Failed Insurrectionist? Hardly. Palm Sunday Fills Us In. (Lenten Scriptural Commentary #40)
by Erik Ritland
"There are some who think that Jesus was a failed insurrectionist. There is plenty of evidence that throws this assumption into serious question, not the least is that there is no hint in Jesus’ teachings or actions that He was insurrectionist in any sort of way. The disciples of every failed insurrectionist scattered, their dreams dead. With Jesus, something was different."
Fully Alive’s Lenten Scriptural Commentary helps Christians get more out of Lent by taking God’s word seriously.
Mostly avoiding personal stories and anecdotes, our commentary dives deeply into the scripture readings for each day and applies them to the broader context of Lent. We use the daily Mass readings from the Catholic lectionary.
If possible, read each passage slowly, taking in each word. If you find that you’ve hurried through a reading, read it over a few more times. Let the words reverberate in your heart. After you’ve let it sink in, read our Lenten Scriptural Commentary.
We begin our journey through Holy Week by hearing the story of Jesus’ passion, from his Triumphal Entry to His crucifixion. This is the most important week in history, and the liturgies we participate in re-present it to us in the here and now.
Readings: Lk 19:28-40 (37)/Is 50:4-7/Phil 2:6-11/Lk 22:14—23:56
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
As he rode along,
the people were spreading their cloaks on the road;
and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives,
the whole multitude of his disciples
began to praise God aloud with joy
for all the mighty deeds they had seen.
"Blessed is the king who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest."
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him,
"Teacher, rebuke your disciples."
He said in reply,
"I tell you, if they keep silent,
the stones will cry out!"
(cf. Lk 19: 28-40)
Before we go to the depths with Christ, we celebrate His triumphant entry into Jerusalem with great joy. In this action, which is rife with symbolism, Jesus is rides into Jerusalem as its king and savior. That he does so on a lowly donkey shows that His Kingdom is not going to be one of force and violence. As the angels rejoiced at Christ’s birth, so the people rejoice as He begins His important work, what He was born to do.
Then an argument broke out among them
about which of them should be regarded as the greatest.
He said to them,
"The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them
and those in authority over them are addressed as 'Benefactors';
but among you it shall not be so.
Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest,
and the leader as the servant.
(cf. Lk 22:14-23:56)
There are some who think that Jesus was a failed insurrectionist. There is plenty of evidence that throws this assumption into serious question, not the least is that there is no hint in Jesus’ teachings or actions that He was insurrectionist in any sort of way. The disciples of every failed insurrectionist scattered, their dreams dead. With Jesus, something was different.
That difference is that Jesus was ushering in a Kingdom of humility. Instead of using force and violence, He allowed all the forces of evil to do their worst to Him, taking it all on Himself so that it lost the ultimate power it had over humanity. This is diametrically opposed to ushering in a Kingdom of pride promulgated by evil and violence.
This Palm Sunday, meditate on how radical that is, and how amazing it is that God consistently defies our expectations.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. The founder of Fully Alive Christian Media, he also created The Minnesota Sport Ramble and is a writer and copy editor for Music in Minnesota. He was Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.