Graduation is just around the corner, and for the life of me, I cannot hum the “Pomp and Circumstance” graduation song off the top of my head. Every time I try to think of it, the tune of “Hail to the Chief” comes to mind. Funny enough, both songs are famous for fancy-schmancy ceremonies where people get all dressed up to go sit and listen to other people give speeches. In the former case, we gather together to celebrate academic achievements as graduates enter the auditorium to the “Pomp and Circumstance” march. In the latter example, we hear “Hail to the Chief” when the President arrives at an official function.
Today being Palm Sunday makes me think of another story about someone important coming to town. In John 12 and Mark 11, we read about Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, just days before he would be crucified. If you flip back a page to the end of Mark 10, you’ll notice that Jesus had just predicted his death for the third time, dealt with a couple of bickering disciples, and then oh-by-the-way, he healed a blind man.
Jesus was riding high on popularity (with the common-folk, that is; the religious leaders were itching to kill him), and he could have strolled into Jerusalem with all the bells and whistles of a presidential inauguration. Instead, he chose to ride a donkey and enter the city in a rather unremarkable manner. The crowds were still reeling from the amazing news of Lazarus’ recent resurrection (John 11; John 12:9-12), and people came out in droves to see the miracle-worker in person. They sang, “Hosanna!” and blessed him aloud as he came into Jerusalem.
Think about a typical presidential inauguration or State of the Union address. The President talks about his successes, agenda, and goals. I can’t think of any presidential speeches (at least not in my lifetime) where our country’s leader talked about what we should be prepared to do when he was no longer in office. Yet, that’s the approach Jesus took. He spoke candidly (and repeatedly) about his death and the promises of eternal life – about light and darkness, blindness and sight (see the rest of John 12).
I wonder how many of the fans who were shouting “Hosanna!” when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem stayed with the crowd when the cry turned to “Crucify him!” a few days later.