By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
In our Jesus story (Luke 19:28-40), on this Palm Sunday, unlike other Gospel accounts, in Luke we read a story that has no palms, and no big crowds singing praises as our guy comes into Jerusalem. Instead, we’re told that it was the “whole multitude” of Jesus’ disciples who sang loud, joyful songs of praise as Jesus rode a simple colt into town.
What a sight that must have been – this long-haired, ragged, homeless preacher riding into town on tiny donkey, his followers surrounding him singing his praises. Jesus wasn’t the only one headed into Jerusalem at this time, of course. It was Passover, one of the biggest Jewish festivals of the year, and many were making their pilgrimage to the city.
Over on the other side of town, the Roman ruler of Jerusalem, Pilate, was riding in on his war horse with a battalion of troops riding along. The author of Luke doesn’t want us to miss the importance of Jesus’ procession when compared to the pageantry and earthly might that Pilate’s procession represents.
While those on Pilate’s side of town probably sang hymns to celebrate the man they saw as far more powerful than Jesus, you can bet those songs were sang out of duty and from a deep place of fear that if those songs of praise were not sung, punishment would surely follow.
Isn’t that still how the world operates? We’re still expected to sing praises to those at the top of the heap, whether it’s in government, business, or even in the church. Not so much because we might want to, but because we’re supposed to. It’s our duty.
There was much singing and praising in these past few weeks as the Catholic Church selected a new pope. Pope Francis I is said to be a humble man, perhaps the kind to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, but it remains to be seen if even a humble man can do anything to change the corruption and scandals that have run rampant within the church.
Just because praise songs are sung, Jesus reminds us, doesn’t mean that shouts of scorn are not far behind. That would be Jesus’ fate in Jerusalem in just a few days as songs of praise would turn to scorn and ridicule, and the even disciples’ proud shouts of affirmation of Jesus would turn into words of denial.
This is the danger of singing praise songs that don’t come from our heart – from that realm of God within. Just as the Pharisees told Jesus to hush up his disciples’ sincere songs of praise, so the authorities today discourage us from singing songs of liberation, or songs of peace, or songs of mercy.
But, Jesus refused to silence his disciples and kept singing his own loud songs of freedom, grace and forgiveness. Those songs were so offensive to the authorities that they arrested him and sought to silence his song on the cross. But, true songs of praise, the music that come from the depth of the Holy within us all, can never be silenced.
Even today we can still hear that song that Jesus sang … that music inside of us that keeps us from being frightened or worried, even when the world threatens to silence us.