Our community is aching. After the bloody days Fort Wayne has witnessed in recent weeks, we as a city are hungering for answers, for help, for peace.
This past weekend, people all over the world celebrated Palm Sunday with Christ’s peaceful, joyous entrance into Jerusalem. Such a celebration compels me to ask what a day like this, with its procession of peace, possibly has to say to our world at war. What does Jesus, the Prince of Peace, offer to our communities and streets ripped open by violence?
If we dig into the procession story from Luke’s perspective (Luke 19:28-42), we sense something important is coming. Jesus starts his ride toward Jerusalem, and the city ecstatically erupts. Above the cheering, we hear the call of the disciples: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!
Luke focuses on this special declaration of the disciples – they are chanting for peace. It’s such a countercultural thing to chant, for Jerusalem was not a place of peace, especially not around the Passover. During Passover, security was heightened. The judge and prefect, Pontius Pilate, normally in Caesarea, came to town in the likelihood of disturbances.
William Carter, in his description of this scene, writes that, Luke’s Palm Sunday account echoes the Christmas story: When Jesus was born, the Gospel writer tells us that the angels appeared to sing, Peace on earth.’ Now, as Jesus rides his colt toward Jerusalem, the people look to the sky and sing, Peace in heaven.’ Heaven sings of peace on earth. Earth echoes back, Peace in heaven.’ As the church gathers this day, we are caught in the crossfire of blessings.
Crossfire – what a paradoxical and yet fitting word to describe the surroundings of the church. Between the angels’ call for peace on earth and the disciples’ call for peace in heaven, there is no peace. There is resistance to peace.
As we continue to follow Luke’s story, we see this jubilant scene has its shadows. Not everyone joins in the parade or the cheering.
Some of the religious authorities have a problem – a rather hefty one. The crowd calls Jesus a king, and this has got to stop. The religious leaders send some gofers to talk to Jesus, to tell him to tone it down before someone gets hurt.
But Jesus will have none of that. Brushing their warnings aside, Jesus states that even nature, even the stones beneath that colt, are on the side of peace.
I tell you, if these (people) were silent, the stones would shout out, Jesus says. The stones would shout forth Christ’s promise, Christ’s summons to peace.
Jesus already knows Jerusalem is not a peaceful place, but it appears to hit him in a freshly forceful way – so powerfully, in fact, that Jesus weeps. Luke writes, As (Jesus) came near and saw the city (meaning Jerusalem), he wept over it, saying, If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’ (Luke 19:41-42).
Oh, Jesus, we say, what are the things that make for peace? What will bring peace in our world of war? This is by no means an easy task. The Prince of Peace himself endured one of the most violent deaths known to humankind.
Perhaps the first place to start is making peace in our own hearts – giving ourselves freely, without bitterness, reservation or expectation. To do so enacts the kind of vulnerable love Jesus himself gave on a cross 2,000 years ago – a love and a death ensuring that violence, fear and hate would not have the final say.
In our world of war – through the violence in our streets, the fearful hallways of our schools, the heightened security and aggression between nations – Jesus comes, riding his humble farm animal through it all. What will we do? Where will we start?
If you, Jesus says, had only recognized on this day, the things that make for peace!
Lord, have mercy.