Sometimes it feels futile calling on people to live by love instead of power. The whole invitation seem like asking people to live on blind faith. I mean, what is the point of inviting people to consider a different way of being in the world when nobody else in the world seems to live that way? How can I not wonder if I am just getting people set up to be trampled on? Maybe, instead of talking about some utopic pipe dream, I should operate in the real world.
Perhaps I should get away from calling for an act of blind faith by writing about using power for good. Or maybe I should encourage people to ignore what is happening in the world today and just be focused on some eternal panacea. I could even bifurcate reality into two worlds, acting as if we can someone straddle two ways of being. At least then what you believe might match up with what you see.
Then I come to Luke’s account of Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem fully aware of his pending crucifixion.
Love and Power in Contrast
The arrival of Jesus at one gate stands in opposition to the arrival of additional Roman forces at another. The troops’ arrival, an act that causes the very ground to shake, is a preemptive move, an additional security measure for the potentially disruptive Passover Feast. Yes, Rome will allow the Jewish people to remember how God freed them from bondage in Egypt, but they will have to do so in the shadow of their current oppressor’s boot.
So love comes through one gate and power through another. It might seem as if the two of them are headed for an epic showdown, the ultimate rumble to determine which way of being in the world will win, but just as Rome preemptively brings in troops, Luke preemptively tempers expectations.
Luke 19:28 reads, “After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples.” To make sense of Jesus’ take on a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we need to understand the story that came before, the Parable of the Ten Servants, which parallels the more known Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).
More often than not, when I hear someone mention the Talents, they are using it as a justification for meritocracy. The general thinking goes, you have what you have because you are faithful, and when you get more, it is because of that faithfulness. It then correlates that those who have less lack because of their unfaithfulness.
It is not at all unusual for people, familiar with Matthew’s version, to notice the similarities in Luke and project interpretation. Unfortunately, while this is a horrible reading of Matthew’s account, it makes zero sense in Luke. After all, Luke cues us in that the story intends to correct the people’s impression about when the Kingdom of God begins.
Will the Way of Love Rule?
The story itself tells of a noble going on a journey to officially inherit a kingdom. Listeners in the First Century would know that both Herod and his son Archelaus traveled to Rome in hopes of receiving kingly power. They would also know that while Caesar granted Herod’s wish, he rejected Archelaus. So the noble heads off, but nobody is sure if anything will be any different upon their return. To make matters worse, some people, who want someone else to be king, are actively working to make sure the coronation does not happen.
This makes the parable about how you choose to live in the interim. Do you try and position yourself to be ok whether or not they return a king, or do you live as if they are the king and risk looking foolish if they return empty-handed? Should you boldly live by love or try and find a way to straddle between love and power?
Blind Faith or Conviction?
Jumping forward to Jesus’ triumphant entry, he warns his followers that things will not follow their hopes and expectations in the coming days. Jesus will not end up sitting on a throne, rather, he will hang from a tree. Moreover, that is just the beginning of his journey, a journey into death.
The way of love never felt more futile than it did between that Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. It continues to feel that way more often than not in our world today. That is when I wonder if I should give up on an invitation to a seemingly blind faith. But then something happens that makes the way of love seem a little less futile. There is a triumphant entry of love that reminds me why I seek to not just write about it, but live it. I see love embodied and it reminds me I keep living it because I believe that love is the only way worth living, whatever the cost.