I have been in parades too. In high school I played in the marching band. I played the trumpet, but then I got to play the tuba which was very fun. Playing for football games was OK by me. We did our halftime show, we ate junky food, we played classic rock adaptations (Back in Black is a lot of fun to play on the tuba). I did not feel the same way about parades. I dreaded every parade that I had to play for. The Memorial Day parade was sweltering hot and we only had one, all-wool band uniform. We once had a parade inside the school for a student who had qualified for a state-level wrestling tournament. I remember crashing into archways and I remember students trying to throw snack remains into the bell of my tuba as we marched through the lunch room. The worst parade, however, was the Saint Patrick’s Day parade.
I don’t know how, but it rained for all five years of Saint Patty’s Day parades. It was always bitter cold. I was grateful for the wool uniforms, but I was less grateful for the 35 pounds of freezing metal coiled around my body. What I found to be most annoying about the parade was the droves of very drunk people continuously calling out to us as we passed by. People would try to throw their snacks into the bell of my tuba (there is apparently something very alluring about that brass bell), there would inevitably be someone who stumbled out into the parade route causing the band to stop short, and one time someone threw a Jello shot to our band director (who did not accept this charitable gift).
I just wanted that parade to end as soon as possible. Despite the cheers and applause lifted up by our largely confused audience, I wanted to get back home where it was warm, dry, and considerably more quiet. As soon as we finished the route, we can get back on the bus, go back to the school, change out of my uniform, and be back home.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was a kind of parade too. We don’t get much in the story about what was going on in Jesus’ head. We don’t know if he likes parades and the attention that comes with them. We don’t know anything about the weather. Was it sweltering hot like a Memorial Day parade or was it bitter cold like a St. Patty’s Day parade? We do know, however, that the crowd was excited- more excited than the folks who come out to St. Patty’s Day parades.
They were excited because the Messiah had finally come in triumph into the holy city, Jerusalem. Most people believed that the Messiah was going to be God’s anointed servant who would raise up an army, kick out the Romans who were ruling over the Jews in Israel, and be set up as a king to rule over an age of peace and freedom.
They were not expecting this Messiah to die at the hands of their enemy. They did not expect him to be humiliated and crucified. They were not expecting this to be a one-way parade. They had hoped that the Messiah would go through the parade route, kick out Rome, get out of his itchy band uniform, and enjoy some peace and quiet.
Jesus’ parade is one-way. He is coming into Jerusalem, but he won’t be coming out of it without losing his life.
Even though we and the crowd often don’t understand why Jesus is marching he continues to march. So often we expect God’s justice to be meted out swiftly and gloriously. We believe that God’s work and pain and shame never go together. Christ marches on in a parade of self-giving and unconditional love.
He marches on through more than Memorial Day heat, St. Patty’s Day cold, and itchy band uniforms. Jesus marches on through the Passion. He marches through the praise, through the betrayal, through the abandonment, through the beatings, through the condemnation, and through the cross itself. God in Christ marches on through the cross and into the victory of the resurrection. Jesus marches for us. He marches, so that we too might march through the pains of life and into the the resurrected life he has secured for us.