When I consider that Jesus, on that celebrated “Palm Sunday” many centuries ago, walked straight into hell, I shutter. That this Jesus called us to love our enemies, that he delivered us from evil by invading it…this puzzles me. It puzzles me because I’ve seen evil.
Evil isn’t some movie magic, it’s not some Poltergeist-production or Peritti-novel. It’s sinister and snake-like. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he was entering a church office, a denominational building, a religious holy-ground. There were no spooks, just normal church-goers looking to live the holy life. Evil is often disguised in such a garb.
Evil often looks polite and deferential. Snakes parade around in holy garb. They compliment you first, then go in for the kill. They are incapable of self-reflection. Instead, they flaunt a false self covered in false humility. They can confess with the best. They can theologize with the greatest. They are defined by their enemies, because they’re always looking for a scapegoat. They are convincing, lawyerly in their arguments and accusations. They are sinister in their ability to exploit the weak.
Jesus identifies, however, with the weak and oppressed. And I’ve seen plenty of men and women like this over time. I think of the emotionally abused wife who faces the passive politeness of an apparently godly man, whose subtle and snakelike button-pushing ignites an eruption of anger, all of which he can conveniently deny. I think of the hard-working young man whose boss calls him in to his office to confront his behind-the-scenes power grab and his desire to take over. In his narcissistic rage, the boss sees the success of his young employee as a threat to his, and any success he cannot claim he must extinguish.
Palm Sunday is no abstract religious ceremony for the abused, betrayed, or indicted. It is a day of solidarity. And this week, of all weeks throughout the year, is your time if you’ve suffered in this way. Jesus walks the way of mockery and humiliation for you, on behalf of you, with you. You do not suffer alone. Now, more than ever, embrace a faith that sometimes feels counter-intuitive, filled with Pharisees and snakes, but see its center not in the Snake but in the Suffering Servant.
He meets you right where you are.