Rejecting a 'Loser' SaviorMarch 25, 2016
As Jesus marched into Jerusalem on that first 'palm Sunday,' the crowd eagerly cheered. They longed for a strong leader, one who could finally make Israel great again.
"We don't win anymore," one man might have said to his neighbor in between shouts of "hosanna!" and waving of palm leaves. "We used to win with Moses and Joshua - I love Joshua - and Solomon and David - nobody's better than David. Now we lose all the time."
The crowd cheered and shouted for the new king, a new warrior. Then Jesus rode by on a donkey's colt.
"Wait, why isn't he riding on a war horse?" the second man may have asked back to his neighbor. "I expected something classy. A colt is a bit too low energy. You know what I mean? It's just terrible, worst kind you can imagine. Look, I just thought he'd try something terrific. Like a white stallion. Just beautiful, the best."
As the energetic crowd welcomed Jesus into the Jerusalem, they seemed to see change coming. They yearned for someone who could make deals and get things done. They wanted someone willing to kill the Romans and maybe even soldiers' family members. They wanted someone to rebuild Nehemiah's wall and keep our people safe from those people. Surely this Jesus could be that savior.
The dream of the crowd soon dissipated. Over the next couple of days, Jesus cleansed the temple, again insisted he must die, and surrendered nonviolently to those who came to arrest him. Rather than whip the crowd into a violent frenzy against those hated 'others,' he instead criticized the failures of his own people. Rather than prepare his followers for battle, he instead scolded one for wielding a sword.
So just five days after the crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, a mob chanted for his death. It's a chant that's echoed throughout the years: "crucify him," "lynch him," "waterboard him," "kill him."
As the tortured Jesus stood before the angry crowd on Friday, the people chose Jesus Barabbas (often just called "Barabbas," which means 'son of the father'). The option couldn't be clearer. What kind of savior did they want? What kind of revolution did they desire? The nonviolent, self-sacrificing love preached by Jesus the Son of God? Or the violent, hate-filled guerilla warfare practiced by Jesus son of the father? The one who sat still while being punched in the face or the one who promised to send the enemy off on stretchers or worse?
There might have been a few people pointing out the vulgarity and bigotry of Barabbas. But the anger of the mob quickly drowned out those dissenting voices. Who wants to hear about how love trumps hate when it's easier to just fight?
"He's not a messiah," someone in the crowd may have hissed about Jesus of Nazareth as the soldiers led the condemned man away. "I like people who aren't crucified."
"What a dummy that Jesus, so overrated," someone else might have responded with agreement. "Such a loser. We need a strong fighter to make Israel great again."