Today we hear the story of Jesus triumphal exit out of Bethany and Bethphage. In Luke’s gospel the parade part of the story is set some distance from Jerusalem. It is set in a place that John’s gospel indicates (like in last week’s gospel reading) was a place where people supported Jesus. It is they that cheer Jesus on and lay cloaks and palms on the road. This is not a fickle crowd about to change sides.
This story marks the beginning of a journey that leads to the cross. In Luke’s gospel Jesus is in control of the whole process. You get the sense he has planned what will be, including the colt, and the room and supplies for the last supper. It is Jesus that leads us to the events of Good Friday and Easter. And it all happens as he intended. Do we enter this final week with the same level of intent? Do we walk with Jesus towards the events of Good Friday?
One of the ways we understand Jesus is the suffering servant. The passage we hear from Isaiah today is one the suffering servant passages. This passage isn’t just about Jesus. When it was written during and for the exile in Babylon. It may have been about the prophet himself, the people of Judah still in exile, or another person or group altogether. So while we can use it to understand who Jesus was, it does not exclusively apply to him. As I read this passage I was reminded of two people whose story is linked with this place who were shaped by scripture and their Christian faith. They chose to stand and fight with the local people in defence of their homes and families, the land and their way of life. But they did so showing a remarkable degree of care of concern for those they fought. Henare Taratoa and Heni Te Kiri Karamu were both suffering servants. They did not hide their faces from insults, nor from violence. Nor were they put to shame. They continued to live lives founded on God’s care and mercy for all. Like Jesus how they lived was shaped by both scripture and their on-going faith in God. In the midst of violence they lived God’s mercy.
As we join the disciples today, waving our branches and palms, joining the ancient longing for the one who will bring in God’s reign of peace, I wonder who the suffering servants today?