I am a proud gate standing sentinel for a proud and holy city.
I remember the day I was commemorated too. From the Temple, not a few feet away, I heard the prayers of holy men rise and fall like the sun:
“Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24).
That was a long time ago. Now, the Romans are in charge.
They stampede in here with horses and chariots, claiming that the only way to keep the peace is by the sway of the sword. And they come in full force this time of year: Spring, during the Passover season, when the Jews celebrate God’s salvation of the Hebrews from the tyrannical Pharaoh.
Children gather at my feet and hear the elders talk about how poor Old Pharaoh tried to play God and failed, how Pharaoh and his army got swept out to sea.
Sometimes, a boy grows up and takes that story seriously and wonders why God can’t do it all over again, why God can’t call someone like Moses and tell Rome to take a hike.
There was, for instance, a Jew named Theudus who rallied some four hundred men. They paraded in here on horses, flashed swords and sang songs of triumph. They echoed prayers of old that affirming that God would be swift to judge the wicked.
This week, Passover is going on as usual, and all of the pilgrims and priests have gathered together for the big celebration. The songs go up from the city, and the Temple is busy with movement; but, there has been chatter about a man from Galilee, a peasant who is unlike the other warriors who claimed to come in the name of the Lord.
He is no ordinary miracle worker. He is not a magician. And, by the sound of it, he is not much of a warrior either. He has no army. He amassed no weapons. He does not have a horse.
People gathered around him anyway and announced that this “Jesus of Galilee” was the King of Israel.
Hosannas rang out; people waved palm branches. Some of them threw their cloaks in front of him even though he rode in on a donkey.
He has been clashing with the authorities all week, not with swords but with words of the coming Kingdom. He overturned tables and did miracles.
Some say he has been playing peasant because he does not want to get killed. Others say his parables hide his true identity as the Messiah.
One this is sure: this better be the messiah all of us are hoping for because the Passover is almost over, and he hasn’t sent any Romans running for the hills.
And if this Jesus doesn’t do what we expect him to do, if he doesn’t overthrow the Romans once and for all, then he will be in trouble too.
If he doesn’t watch his step and gather that army, then he might just end up on that cross that I see on the other side of Jerusalem—the one perched high on Golgotha that casts its long shadow across the city.
Words and promises and fancy talk of resurrection are not enough to appease this city. Our hope is too high, and we need assurances like lower taxes and legislation that lets us live the high life.
So, if Jesus does not do what we want, then I can assure you that those shouts of hosannas will be turned to those two words with which I am all too familiar: “Crucify him!” And he will be nothing more than another so-called messiah lost to history and to the sands of time.
Today better be a good Friday in which God’s victory comes upon our oppressors, not by acts of worthless sacrifice but by the edge of a sword. That Jesus better have a miracle up his sleeve yet.