Pastor of the parish of Saint-Pierre-du-Gros-Caillou in Paris, Father Jacques de Longo comments on the Gospels of Palm Sunday and the Passion. In the same movement, Jesus reveals the glory and sacrifice of his royalty. He is the king to save us.
The liturgy of this Palm Sunday combines in one celebration the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and His Passion. The contrast between the glory of Palm Sunday and the immersion in the darkness of Gethsemane is striking. The crowd demands the death of the one they greeted a few days earlier. In these two narratives, the Palm Sunday and the Passion, Jesus appears as a king: a humble king, a lowly king, an exalted king, a king in whom God’s promises are fulfilled.
The crowd recognizes its king
On Palm Sunday, a crowd of disciples greet Jesus: “Blessed is he who comes, King, in the name of the Lord. It seems that the prophecy of Zechariah is about to be fulfilled: “Rejoice with all your might, daughter of Zion! Rejoice, daughter of Jerusalem! Here is your king coming to you: he is right and victorious, he is poor and rides on a donkey, a young young one, a donkey’s stallion ”(See 9, 9). The donkey is a humble animal. This is not a warrior king, but a peace-loving king. Warriors ride horses, not donkeys! The oracle of Zechariah continues: “This king will remove the war chariots from Ephraim and the war horses from Jerusalem; He will break the bow of war and proclaim peace to the nations” (Zech. 9:10).
In the person of Jesus, the Kingdom of God opens in the world.
The crowd crowding down the Mount of Olives knows this oracle and recognizes Jesus as the proclaimed king. These women and men hope that Jesus will come to establish the kingdom of God, where justice and peace will finally reign. They are right. This is what Jesus brings. In his face the Kingdom of God is revealed in the world. But it is by his death, his resurrection and the gift of the Spirit, and not by a coup d’état or military conquest, that his Kingdom expands.
Unwittingly, Pilate hit the nail on the head
Jesus also appears as king during his Passion. He is dressed in a purple robe and crowned with thorns. The soldiers scoff: “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself. The reason for the condemnation is anointed on the Cross: “This is the King of the Jews.” This cloak, this crown, this ridicule, this sign is meant to make fun of Jesus, but also to hurt the Jews. Saint John was not wrong. In his Gospel, he preserved the prayer of the high priests to Pilate: “Do not write “King of the Jews”, but “This said: I am the King of the Jews.” They are outraged: How! To publicly proclaim this suffering man, condemned to shameful tortures on the cross, the king of the Jews, our king! What a laugh! What an insult! But Pilate answers: “What I wrote, that I also wrote” (John 19:21-22). Pilate is right: Jesus is indeed the messiah-king proclaimed by the prophets of Israel. The Roman governor wanted to humiliate Jesus and ridicule the Jews. But, involuntarily and unconsciously, he hit the nail on the head. Only Jesus is not a king in the image of the world. He is like God. He alone, having given his life to overthrow the power of the devil, the divider, allows reconciliation and the gathering of all that exists in God.
Judgment on the world
The Kingdom of God grows in believers who strive to do the will of God and do it according to divine grace. The passions of Jesus bring to the fore the sins of people: Pilate’s calculations, envy and religious hatred of the high priests, the cries of the crowd, which are so easily influenced, the betrayal and venality of Judas, the denial of Peter, the cowardice of other disciples, the violence, cruelty of the soldiers, etc. The passions are judgment on the world. We recognize ourselves in this behavior. You can’t brag when you hear the story of the Passion. We know that we are sinners and we pray to God for mercy.
But the light of resurrection is already shining. Far from condemning us completely, the death of Jesus opens the way of life for us. Discovered, the devil is forced out of the positions he firmly occupied. God can take his place. His Kingdom can be born and grow in our lives. May this Holy Week be a rich grace for each of us and for the Church. We will follow Christ, a king humble in the eyes of men, a king exalted by the power of God. Let us follow him in his struggle and his victory over evil, so that he reigns in our lives. Then we will share his life and his joy.