This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, the Christian holiday that ushers in Holy Week. It celebrates the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem (Mk 11:1-11). In hindsight, though, this is one of the oddest “triumphal entries” one could imagine. It is the triumphal kick-off for what would be the death of the Son of God for the sins of the world.
Even now, millennia removed from the events of this week, we still wonder at how this all works. How does one person’s death–however good they are–account for every sin of every human in all of history?
It only begins to make some sort of sense when we acknowledge that this great exchange is not between to equals. Jesus, the Good and Innocent human, cannot merely be “another man” dying for another.
He must be greater. He must be truer. He must transcend simple humanity and finitude. The Cross is more akin to Beauty Itself walking in and saying “I am the guilty one, condemn me.” Or Love. Or Justice. Or Goodness. Whatever would cause you–the Guilty–to plead “let it not be!”; to beg that the condemnation still be poured out on you rather than destroy all that embodies Goodness, Truth, Love, and Light.
The Gospel only works because it proclaims this staggering, humbling truth: Jesus Christ is of more worth than a thousand, million humanities. It is only beautiful because this exchange is gratuitously disproportionate.
It is the object of that much worth that gave of himself for a multitude. It is that Being that became, of all things, human. And he triumphally entered into Jerusalem receiving the palms and praises of a world that would kill Him. But the triumph was not just for Him.
It was for us.
He triumphantly entered into humanity itself and so restored the dignity of our lost humanity. He showed us that His creation and His creatures can contain the Divine.
Indeed, that is our end, our telos. The work of God in the world is to restore humanity as it was intended to be lived: communing with the Divine while embracing our “boundness”. God does not intend to blow apart our limits and embodiment, but to make himself knowable within our limits and embodiment. The finite can taste the Divine, because the Divine tasted the finite and triumphed in restoring its original design.
Jesus entered into Jerusalem that day as a King because we are not kings. We are mortals. As it is now, we die like cattle because we fancied ourselves gods. But we are humans — beautiful, dignified, valuable, and finite.
“It is only when human beings see themselves simply as human beings, no longer as gods, that they are in a position to perceive the wholly other nature of God. It is only when we cease to be unhappy supermen and pathetic mini-gods and permit ourselves to become human beings through and through again that we let God be God.”
As creatures we are bound, and the sooner we learn this is a gift and our glory, the sooner we can taste the gifts of Time, Space, and Embodiment and use them to live life and enjoy life rather than try and consume and suck life from every event, place, and person around us. Recognizing the dignity, goodness, and beauty inherent in all those things, we can taste the World to come where all things and people will be enjoyed for what they are and not for what they can give. What was our manipulation can become our exultation.
And our freedom starts on Palm Sunday.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey,” saying “because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope.” (Zech 9:9,11-12)
[image: “Conversion on the Way to Damascus” by Caravaggio]