Running from Palm Sunday to Easter Monday the Jesus Chronicles are a series of reflections on the Easter story and the life and death and life of Jesus and those who were around him. I jump in and out of the narrative from 2000 years ago, and at times take a few liberties – it’s not my aim to be 100% historically accurate and probably not theologically either. Instead my hope is that in retelling the story we can see how we are still a part of it.
I’m not sure who is in charge these days. We have a Queen, we have a Prime Minister, a parliament, an influential media, a web of corporations spanning the globe, and our own individual free will.
A recent law gave local councils a general power of competence, meaning that they could do what they liked unless it was explicitly prohibited. It put them on the same footing as the general public, we can do what we like as long as it is not against the law.
But that’s a very technical way of looking at our freedom. Because all sorts of things restrict what we do. It is not just laws that influence our behaviour, we follow the cues of our culture and the expectations of those around us. We try and please people who we want to like us, and we give deference even to those we do not know. In short there is always a king of our lives, even if we are in a constant quest to try and claim the throne for ourselves.
Two thousand years ago the Jewish people had a conflict as to who was in charge. Rome had conquered the region and suppressed rebellions and placed a governor in charge. The face of Caesar adorned the coins to remind the locals who was in charge. But the local religious leaders came to a compromise with Rome, they managed to maintain some semblance of control of their own affairs, but it was only ever conditional on not upsetting their imperial overlords.
And then Jesus came along.
He threatened everything. And when he entered Jerusalem for Passover week the crowds went wild. This Jesus had been giving hints that he was not bound by the authority of the priests, or ruled by the military might of Rome.
The locals got excited: here was the one who would liberate them from the tyranny of Rome. They would know the stories of the last time nearly two centuries before when their hopes had been raised, and then crushed, as Judas Maccabeus promised to be the Messiah and led a revolt to reclaim Jerusalem.
And the authorities would have worried for exactly the same reason. It had taken several years to resolve the conflict and hammer out an agreement between Rome and the Jews, a precarious settlement that the chief priests were keen to hold onto.
But this Jesus, this king who made a triumphant entry, he came in on a donkey.
If he was going to lead a revolution he needed an army. This king had an interesting strategy, whenever the crowds got too keen he would head off to the hills, jump on a boat, find space to pray alone. He didn’t match up to the image of a king. Despite the excitement he had generated, the followers he had gained, the promise of a new king still looked a long way off.
This king was not like other kings. He did not do things in the same way. He followed a different set of rules. But he was not less than earthly kings. He was more. A lot more.