RED CARPET TREATMENT
Palm Sunday, 2016
Red Carpet treatment. Perhaps you know what that is. But for those of you who don’t, it happens when a celebrity, a dignitary or a leader comes to town. It’s kind of like when a movie star such as
Leonardo DiCaprio comes to the theater on Oscar night in his limousine. Someone opens the door for him. And as he exits the car, hundreds of fans yell and scream his name. He smiles to the crowd. He waves his hand to the crowd. A thousand flashes of light from cameras dowse the scene as he then walks into the theater… on a red carpet. He’s so special. The crowd knows it. He knows it too.
That type of tradition – where a dignitary gets the “red carpet treatment” – has been going on for centuries. During Roman times, back some two thousand years ago, the people would have to “roll out the red carpet” for the celebrities, the dignitaries, the leaders of their day. The Roman governor or general would come to town, and guess what? At the entrance to the town, people would be forced to gather. They’d used whatever they could find to cover the ground in a gesture of recognition that he who comes is superior to them, that he who comes is sent from the gods themselves, even that the governor/general was a god. And so, in old Palestine for example, the people would cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Such words would only be used, so I’m told, for the leaders and dignitaries of those Roman days. Definitely not for some teacher from some backward province. Not for some nobody from the “fly-over” realm.
But there was an incident, a moment in time, when such a thing did happen. There was a man, a teacher, a healer, a miracle worker from a region known as The Galilee who received such treatment from the people of the city of Jerusalem. Instead of a red carpet – they did not have such a thing at their disposal – the crowd laid down palm branches on the street. And they shouted, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!” He made his way – on a donkey of all things! – to the Holy of Holies, to the very Temple of God. And there, in demonstration of righteousness, he then cleared out the money changers, people who made money off of the peoples’ sacrifices to their god, from the temple grounds. “Do not ever, EVER, do such acts at my Father’s house!”
Well, that did it for him. His first mistake? Well, the leaders of the city did not call for such a welcome for the outsider. His second mistake? Well, throwing out the moneychangers from the temple yards. They were doing no harm. It’s how we’ve always done things. And he disrupted that! Hmm. Third mistake? The people gave him the “red carpet treatment.” Well, we’ll show him red carpet treatment! Fourth mistake? The people proclaim him to be from God… and he goes along with it! Calls God his Father? That’s blasphemy! How offensive! How awful! That cannot be tolerated!
And so began Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem. He knew what would happen. He knew the “red carpet treatment” by the people would end with a walk down the Via Dolorosa, the path of sadness, the way of the cross.
But the people? The ones who gave Jesus “the red carpet treatment”? Little did they realize that in just a matter of days, he’d be dead; he’d be killed. By the worst of Roman torture. By the decision of the people’s court, the Sanhedrin. Because, so they said, he proclaimed himself to be more powerful than the emperor of the empire. Because, so they said, he equated himself with God himself.
Only, he was more powerful than Caesar. And he was, in truth, the Son of the Creator. But that story is for another time. That story is for next week.