A brief reflection on Palm Sunday
This day about 6 years ago Julius Malema the chair of the ANC youth league marches into the city of Johannesburg surrounded by six body guards dressed in black suits and red ties, armed with semi automatic N17 guns. He was on his way to court. The legality of this action is
questionable under the South African fire arms act. It is not about security. It is more about insecurity. It is about
intimidation. It is a public demonstration of where his faith is, in violence, in weapons, in death, in fear and in destruction. Such a parade of force is a common theme in world history. After every victorious conquest the
Roman Emperors and the Roman Generals would parade through the streets of Rome and other areas showing the signs of their victory. These Victory Marches were called Triumphs.
British imperialism also had a similar show of force. One of the ways of insuring its dominance in India was through parades and theatre. For example the great durbar of 1902-3, organised by the Viceroy Lord
Curzon, was a celebration of British rule in India and a commemoration of the Coronation of Edward VII.
Photographers gathered from all over India to record the
processions and ceremonies which took place in a specially designed
amphitheatre during the first week of 1903. However, this durbar was
designed to make clear that the British were in charge.
These “Victory Marches” are a reminder of what happened
centuries ago in Palestine in the days when Pontius Pilate was ruler.
Scholars explain that at every Passover, Pontius Pilate would prove a show of force with chariots, horses and soldiers. Why? At Passover Jews remember that they were saved from Egypt. They remember that God saved them. If God saved them from Egypt, God would save them from Rome too. To quell any potential resistance to Roman oppression, Pontius Pilate would parade through the streets of Palestine displaying the might of the Roman power through force, theatre, and drama to intimidate the Jews into subservience.
Jesus “mocks” Pilate’s show of force and offers an alternative march on Palm Sunday. Instead of intimidation, Jesus rides on the colt of a donkey. While Julius Malema, Julius Caesar, Pontius Pilate and Queen Victoria put their faith in weapons, violence, superiority, wealth; Jesus shows that his faith is in truth, in justice, in mercy, in love. Those who follow the processions of the world will not understand a procession of palms on a colt of a donkey. Jesus will end paying the ultimate price for this alternative march of peace.