Today, Palm Sunday, we are invited to reflect on two very different gospel stories. The first is Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where the crowds hailed him as their king, and the second, Mark’s passion story where the crowds jeered him and called for his crucifixion. It is a stark contrast between the king, riding on a colt, like Solomon on his father’s mule (1 Kings 1:38) and the king enthroned on his cross and crowned with thorns. Yet Jesus showed that the two were linked. He rightfully entered Jerusalem as its king; but his power lay not in the trappings of worldly glory, which people expected of their Messiah, but in degredation and death. Thus the inscription which was written above the cross as a mockery proclaimed the truth: “The king of the Jews.”
It was ironic that the centurion, a member of the occupying power, should stand as a witness for the Son of God. The man who was responsible for carrying out a bloody execution, came to recognize in the disfigured body total unselfish love and self-giving. On the other hand, the leaders of his own people, blinded by jealousy and self righteousness, could only see somebody who challenged the status quo and needed to be quickly removed.