Triumph of the King

Sunday, March 24, AD 2013

zechariah

(This is my regular post for Palm Sunday which I repost each year.  Have a happy and blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week.)

“9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. 10 And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.”

Thus did the prophet Zechariah, writing half a millennium before, predict the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  How many such glorious entrances into cities have there been over the ages?  Every civilization I am aware of has such ceremonies, either parades in peace time or entrances of conquest or liberation in war time.  The Romans turned this into an art form with their triumphs, with the reminder of the slave to the imperator of  fleeting human mortality: “Respice post te, hominem memento te”.

Few such triumphs have turned into utter disaster as quickly as that of Jesus:  Jerusalem at His feet on Sunday, and Christ dead on a Roman Cross before the sun had set on Friday.  Small wonder that no contemporary historian or chronicler at the time took note.  However some sort of official report probably was filed after the crucifixion.  Writing circa 116 AD, and relying heavily on official records for his history, in regard to the great fire at Rome under Emperor Nero Tacitus states:

“15.44.2. But, despite kindly influence, despite the leader’s generous handouts, despite appeasing the gods, the scandal did not subside, rather the blaze came to be believed to be an official act. So, in order to quash the rumour, Nero blamed it on, and applied the cruelest punishments to, those sinners, whom ordinary people call Christians, hating them for their shameful behaviour. 15.44.3. The originator of this name, Christ, was sentenced to torture by Procurator Pontius Pilate, during the reign of Tiberius, but although checked for a moment, the deadly cult erupted again, not just in Judaea, the source of its evil, but even in Rome, where all the sins and scandals of the world gather and are glorified.”

Tacitus, clearly hostile to the Christians, points his finger at one of the great mysteries of history.  In human terms the Jesus movement was nipped in the bud at its inception.  Yet in less than three centuries the Roman emperor bowed before the cross.  The triumph of Palm Sunday led only to disaster, and the humiliation and death of the cross led to triumph in eternity and here on Earth.

For we Catholics, and for all other Christians, no explanation of this paradoxical outcome is needed.  However there is much here to ponder for non-believers and non-Christians.  In purely human terms the followers of Christ had no chance to accomplish anything:  no powerful supporters, no homeland embracing their faith, cultures, both Jewish and Gentile, which were hostile to the preaching of the Gospels, other religions which were well-established, the list of disadvantages could go on at considerable length.  We take the victory of Christianity for granted because it happened.  We forget how very improbable such a victory was. Even more improbable is that what began on Palm Sunday, the triumph of Jesus, has continued till today in spite of all challenges that two thousand years of human folly could cast up.  How very peculiar in mortal terms!

Let us give the last word to the patron saint of paradox G. K. Chesterton:

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11 Responses to Triumph of the King

  • ” ..still plot how God shall die.”
    So true!
    Same kings. Same outcome.
    Viva Cristo Rey!

  • As I reflect on the situation of first century Christianity vis a vis the Roman Empire, I wonder if the main contender for allegience isn’t the individual as we’ve thought for the past few centuries, but the kings and realms of the earth. Daniel saw the empires of the world finally swallowed up in the Kingdom of God. St. John saw that, too.

  • Jon-
    Maybe both. In scripture man and nation are at times one in the same.
    The blood that soaked the arena made way for the conversion of an Empire.
    Is it possible today?
    I hope so.

  • Phillip, that’s right. God judges individuals and nations. We see him dealing with both levels throughout the scriptural story.

    As to your question, all promises of scripture find their conclusion in the life hereafter if not in this one. That too is true both at the individual and collective levels. It is true for each Chtristian’s life as well as for the nations or the world. Who is to say how much is attained before Christ’s return and how much will constitute the culmination of the kingdom at his coming? I often wonder that. But I have seen enough change at the level of individual lives to know that some things are realized even now.

  • Jon-
    Gods timing is mystery.
    The following site is worth speculation.
    Throughout history eucharistic miracles appear for individuals as well as nations.
    This one in Pope Francis’ backyard is somewhat recent as far as this type of miracle goes.
    http://www.loamagazine.org/nr/the_main_topic/eucharistic_miracle_in_buenos.html

    As for me, I see a miracle every Sunday.

    Enjoy.

  • Yes, God’s timing is a mystery. Well-put, phillip. I don’t doubt God could bring it all about now. I believe he can do anything that’s in keeping with his character. The question always is, does he want to, and if so, when will he do it. As far as the eucharistic thing goes, I’m really not big on the idea of articulating what happens there. I know it’s commemorative, and it also looks forward to Christ’s return. We do it collectively, and it seems there is something spiritual to it, that it’s a mystery to some extent. I don’t want to say it becomes the body and blood of Christ because I’m not sure that makes sense. I don’t doubt God could implement that if he wanted to, but I’m not sure that’s what his Word is sayin to us. And to be truthfully frank, I fear the devil may come at times to reorient us. I worry about apparitions and things of that sort. Garabandal, for instance, concerned me. I have concerns about these things.

  • Jon-
    I appreciate your caution to things supernatural.
    When Jesus was accused of “devil works” after some miraculous healing was accomplished He didn’t cease.
    Nor will He continue to today.
    The world is in great need of healing, and His Word and Spirit will achieve the harvest He wants.
    As baptized adopted brothers in Christ I wish you and your loved ones a joyous Eastertide.
    Blessings Jon.

  • Drivel. This does not hold true for people my age, born in the deep South at the end of the depression into once upper or upper-middle-class families who lost all their money. Because of this, neither of my parents attended college. Both were “college material”. esp. my mother, who was considered “brilliant” by all who knew her and worked with her.

    Also, both of my sons-in-law are from middle-class families, both are educated, and both have pick-ups. One would be considered upper-middle class. They are both Texans.

  • I can only assume EE that you did not mean to post this comment in regard to this post since it seems to be completely unrelated to your comment.

  • TX is number 14 (of 57 states, if you’re a liberal) in the latest US state rankings for “freedom.” ND and SD are 1 and 2.

    I have always beleived that Jesus would have driven a Ford F-150.

  • T-Shaw-
    Thats funny!

    EE –
    ????

    Donald-
    Yup.

Triumph of the King

Sunday, April 1, AD 2012

zechariah

(This is my regular post for Palm Sunday which I repost each year.  Have a happy and blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week.)

“9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. 10 And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.”

 

Thus did the prophet Zechariah, writing half a millennium before, predict the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  How many such glorious entrances into cities have there been over the ages?  Every civilization I am aware of has such ceremonies, either parades in peace time or entrances of conquest or liberation in war time.  The Romans turned this into an art form with their triumphs, with the reminder of the slave to the imperator of  fleeting human mortality: “Respice post te, hominem memento te”.

Few such triumphs have turned into utter disaster as quickly as that of Jesus:  Jerusalem at His feet on Sunday, and Christ dead on a Roman Cross before the sun had set on Friday.  Small wonder that no contemporary historian or chronicler at the time took note.  However some sort of official report probably was filed after the crucifixion.  Writing circa 116 AD, and relying heavily on official records for his history, in regard to the great fire at Rome under Emperor Nero Tacitus states:

“15.44.2. But, despite kindly influence, despite the leader’s generous handouts, despite appeasing the gods, the scandal did not subside, rather the blaze came to be believed to be an official act. So, in order to quash the rumour, Nero blamed it on, and applied the cruelest punishments to, those sinners, whom ordinary people call Christians, hating them for their shameful behaviour. 15.44.3. The originator of this name, Christ, was sentenced to torture by Procurator Pontius Pilate, during the reign of Tiberius, but although checked for a moment, the deadly cult erupted again, not just in Judaea, the source of its evil, but even in Rome, where all the sins and scandals of the world gather and are glorified.”

Continue reading...

2 Responses to Triumph of the King

  • I never liked poetry, until now.

  • St. Luke 19

    “37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

    “38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

    “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

    “39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

    40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”