Caesar is Not Amused- A Palm Sunday Meditation

Ivory Constantinople, c. 950-1000 Jesus Entry

Ivory Constantinople, c. 950-1000 Jesus Entry

As the crowds proceed the man entering from the Mount of Olives
And shouts of “Hosanna” echo through the festival clogged streets of Jerusalem
While the prophet from Nazareth makes his way through the gates
Mounted on a donkey with no sword or spear, no armor or armies
No parade of the vanquished but rather a rabble of pilgrims
Strew his way with cloaks and the palms have their crowns removed
To lay before him in this mockery or the victory procession of a conqueror
And Caesar is not amused.
 
In Herod’s Temple, with its courts and curtains
Where the cultic apparatus of the priests of the most high
Separate holy from unholy, men from women, Jews from Gentiles
Walks the one who touched the untouchables, ate with sinners and tax collectors
Brought righteousness to the unrighteous and holiness to the unholy
And as he turned the tables of the lives of so many who were previously excluded
Now here in a temple which has ceased to be a house of prayers for all the nations
The tables are turned, as currency and cattle, scapegoat and dove
Are liberated from the sacrificial efficiency of expiation
And the priests seek a new scapegoat
 
In frustration for the lack of promised fruit the fig tree withers where it set down roots
And a vineyard is tended by unfaithful tenants who kill the messengers of the master
And invited guests snub the banquet of the kingdom of God as the hall fills with others
Gathered from the forgotten highways and byways of the nations to fill the wedding hall
For the arrival of the bridegroom and the promised bride
But in a world where the things of God are given to Caesar
And the things of Caesar are looked upon as a god
Where the God of the living is attempted to be contained within a temple of cold stone
Where religion is used to puff up the proud and to step upon the poor
The master cries over the people and the city that is destined for desolation
For the wood is green that will soon be dry and the tinder is arranged
For a city that seeks a conquering Messiah
 
As in days of old when prophets came and confronted king and priest
Where city and temple, land and kings become the objects of dedication
When covenantal identity is consumed by cultic propriety
And the city kills the prophets and stones the ones sent to it
When people prefer the darkness to the light which has come into their midst
And the city cries to Caesar’s procurator to ‘crucify’
When priests proclaim the messiah as a new scapegoat
And Caesar sits amused as the city consumes its own king
As life seems to be consumed by death, love seems forsaken
And might seems to make right
Yet the God of the living
Of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob
Is not done, for the obedient one to death will be the name above all names
The prophet of Nazareth will become the high priest of the nations
The crucified king will be the one that every knee will bow to on heaven and on earth
The forsaken love will be the love that nothing can separate the world from
The light will not be consumed by the darkness
And powers that reign in the shadow of death will be disarmed
By the son of David who entered from the Mount of Olives

Neil White, 2014

 Other Holy Week poems: At The Table, Golgotha, Stay Here and Keep Watch

 

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