Everybody loves a parade, or so we are told. Often parades are thematic, communicating to bystanders what the participants hold as important. Thus, we celebrate with Christmas parades, Fourth of July parades, Rose Bowl parades, and so on. But parades can provide more than pomp and pageantry. There can be an underlying message directed toward the crowd of onlookers and those viewing the parade may ignore that message to their peril.
Parades communicating a serious message can be referred to as processions. The one at the head of the parade is going somewhere for a definite and unbending purpose. This time of the year calls to mind some important historical processions. The one most noted is referred to as the triumphal entry of Jesus of Nazareth, riding on a donkey, as he enters the city of Jerusalem, thus, beginning what is historically known as the week called Holy. That procession would have had Jesus and his disciples coming from the east after their 100 mile or so trek from Galilee. They would have passed though the Mount of Olives as they entered the city. We know from the New Testament that crowds gathered and cheered this one who was being described by some as "the promised One."
John Crossan and Marcus Borg provide a human interest perspective on that particular entry in their work, The Last Week. They draw from Roman and Jewish history in describing another procession that enters Jerusalem, at about the same time, from the west. At the head of that procession would be Pontius Pilate. This appointed Regional Governor by the state of Rome would also have his crowd of spectators, albeit presenting themselves in a very serious mood. For this was serious business. Pilate would have come sixty miles from his luxurious dwelling on the coast to Jerusalem for the expressed purpose of seeing to it that nothing got out of hand during this passover season. Rome had a serious need for control. No societal acting out was allowed.
Two processions coming into the city from opposite directions. One headed by a Galilean peasant who before the week was out would be dead. The another headed by a brutal Roman appointee, secure in all the power and wealth of mighty Rome, who in time would wash his hands of the whole affair.
Two processions, representing two stances and two mind-sets. Which procession do we find ourselves in?
Let's not kid ourselves. We live in terribly divisive times when power, control, greed and lives marked by half-truths, if not out and out falsehoods, are the order of the day. People living out of their fears and anger, which means that their choices are connected to a very short fuse, are growing in number. The movement to not tolerate anything new and to put down in swift order anything that would challenge status quo is growing. The ranks of Pilate's procession are swelling.
The procession of the lowly Galilean speaks of compassion. This Galilean is also willing to show his anger at the greed and the lies. On Thursday of that week, he would conclude the evening meal by washing the feet of his disciples and telling them they should so respond to the world in like fashion.
Two processions. Worlds apart in understanding and wisdom.
Which procession are we in?