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Palm Sunday Sermon: What Kind of King Did You Expect?

Imagine the spectacle of that entry.  From the western side of the city, the opposite side from which Jesus enters, Pontius Pilate leads Roman soldiers on horseback and on foot. Each soldier was clad in leather armor polished to a high gloss.  On each centurion’s head, hammered helmets gleamed in the bright sunlight.  At their sides, sheathed in their scabbards, were swords crafted from the hardest steel; and, in their hands, each centurion carried a spear; or if he was an archer, a bow with a sling of arrows across his back.

Drummers beat out the cadence of march for this was no ordinary entry into Jerusalem.  Pilate, as governor of the region which included not only Judea, but Samaria, and Idumea, knew it was standard practice for the Roman governor of a foreign territory to be in its capital for religious celebrations.  It was the beginning of Passover, a strange Jewish festival that the Romans allowed.  However, the Romans must have been aware that this festival celebrated the liberation of the Jews from another empire, the empire of Egypt.

So, Pilate had to be in Jerusalem.  Since the Romans had occupied this land by defeating the Jews and deposing their king about 80 years before, uprisings were always in the air.  The last major uprising, long before Pilate’s time, had been after the death of Herod the Great in 4 BC.

The uprising started in Sepphoris, about 5 miles from Jesus’ boyhood home of Nazareth.  Before it was over the city of Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee, and the town of Emmaus had been destroyed by the Roman army.

After putting down the rebellion there, the Romans marched on Jerusalem.  After pacifying the city, they crucified over 2,000 Jews who were accused of being part of the rebellion.  The Romans had made their intolerance for rebellion well-known.  And so on this occasion, Pilate had traveled with a contingent of Rome’s finest from his preferred headquarters in Caesarea-by-the-Sea, to the stuffy, crowded, provincial capital of the Jews, Jerusalem.