I'm not much of a parade guy. I'm not sure it stems so much from a childhood where we went to a bunch - standing in the freezing cold, waiting around to catch glimpses of floats that were never quite as exciting as I'd hoped - or because I didn't go to enough. In either event, I'm just not a parade guy. In fact, the only thing worse than watching a parade live is watching it on television - Macy's Thanksgiving Day, the parade of Roses - I'd rather watch an infomercial.
So, when I began to think of Palm Sunday recently, and the events of Jesus entering Jerusalem (interestingly, one of the few events recorded in all 4 gospels, including John's) - I had an interesting "what if" moment. Part of it could be chalked up to my less-than-impressed view of parades, part of it could be attributed to some recent conversations I've had about "margins" - but I had this image of Jesus' "Triumphal Entry" as Bible editors title it - Jesus, riding on the donkey, surrounded by a crowd - all clamouring after him, shouting, spreading cloaks waiving palm branches... but as the scene pans back, instead of Jesus being the central figure among a throng too numerous to count, you see Jesus and the crowd, still some miles off from Jerusalem. Between them and the city remains an empty road stretching on for a mile or two. The city with its tall walls and enormous buildings, dwarfs this crowd - which seems more and more to be secondary characters to the events transpiring within the jewel of Jewish culture at the time.
In this image, Jesus is on the margins. It is not the entire city that recognizes his entry or acknowledges his fame. It's just a few. It's certainly not the elite, the power-brokers, the wealthy aristocrats, the famous celebrities... Jesus is essentially slipping in unnoticed. At one point, in a crest on the road, the camera pans back in to Jesus - he's in the foreground, the crowd is still surrounding him, but now he's looking at the city and he begins to weep and slowly the camera focus changes from Jesus to the city over his shoulder and Jesus exclaims his lament.
Now, I'm not sure this image of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is any more accurate than the image we play over and over every year - with the idea of a "ticker-tape parade" homecoming or Sports championship parade in our minds. Except for the fact that more people lined the streets of NYC than were even living in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. Maybe the entire city came out to see him. Maybe the road was lined for miles. Or maybe, even in this, Jesus was really only on the margins. Maybe, while it seemed like Jesus was front and center to those following him - maybe he was really only a sideshow to the main attraction for the majority of people living in Jerusalem.
For me, this image is much more in line with the ironic way I've seen God work. Turning Chicken littles into mighty warriors, taking litter runts and turning them into kings, and then, turning death into life. In this way, Jesus is the ultimate anti-hero. He's unrecognized by the important people, even by the majority of people - heck, he's not fully recognized by his own followers until after his death and resurrection. This image for me is so life-giving because it reminds me that while Jesus may have lived his life "on the margins" of what we understand society to be - his life was not "marginal" - his life, death and resurrection are actually the central story, but we don't get it until after the fact.
My response to this becomes two-fold. First, it's a reminder that I'm not called to be important. But that my life can be important when grounded in the truth of Jesus - the truth that allows me to be on the margins and still make a difference. I don't have to be important. And second - I feel called to reorient my entire thinking - to reorient my way of viewing the world and recognize the margins - those margins where Jesus is now at work in the world and those same margins I am called to...