When I got home last Thursday night, I learned that the Untied States had fired 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria. This was of course a response to Syria’s chemical weapon attack that was reported to have killed more than 100 people. Was it the right response? I have no idea.
Violence seems to lead to more violence. As a Christian, I believe that certain wars and military actions are justifiable. We are called to protect those who cannot protect themselves. However, acts of war are never the ideal solution, and whenever we talk of such things, we must make sure the world knows that a better solution is available.
You see, 2,000 years ago, a Roman governor named Pontius Pilate entered into Jerusalem during Passover. He wasn’t coming to celebrate the Jewish festival; he was coming to make sure they didn’t riot. Each year thousands upon thousands of Jewish people would migrate into Jerusalem to partake in a festival celebrating that they worshiped a God who had freed them from foreign oppressors.
At this time, Rome is that foreign oppressor, and Pilate does not look favorably on such celebrations that threaten the peace of Caesar’s kingdom. So he wants to make sure that the boot of Rome is firmly upon the throats of the people.
Each year at Passover time, Pilate would come down from his home in Caesarea and enter into Jerusalem in a way that was designed to strike fear into the people. He had a large number of highly-trained Roman soldiers carrying banners, swords and spears. Their sheer number made it sound like thunder was coming from miles away. Behind the solders and chariots, Pilate could be seen riding on his majestic white horse. It had to be an impressive yet terrifying display of worldly might.
At the same time, Scripture teaches us that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives with his band of fisherman, riding on a donkey. People began to shout, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” There was already tension in the air, the faithful had been waiting for the Messiah to come and overthrow Rome.
There is even a prophecy in Zechariah that says the King will come riding on a donkey, and a few verses later we are told that this King will destroy the chariots of the enemy. Jesus accepting the title of King, riding on a donkey – these are declarations of war, and the Pharisees knew it. They immediately tell Jesus to silence his followers, but they cannot be silenced.
What we see pictured in the story of Palm Sunday are the two great powers at war. Pilate, entering Jerusalem from the west with all the power and might of Rome; and Jesus, entering from the east, with his fisherman and a donkey. What happens next is at the very center of the Gospel. If Jesus would have grabbed a sword and armed His disciples, He would have been no different than any other rebellious uprising. No, His way is different.
Instead, He absorbs all the wrathfulness and hatred the world could ever muster. There is no greater way to silence your enemy than to take His life, so they publicly humiliate Jesus and then nail him to a cross. The power of Rome is showing everyone else, this is what happens when you stand against us.
Those who opposed Jesus have a short-lived victory. He rises from the dead, and their weapons become useless. What good is a sword against a man you cannot kill? Colossians tells us,“…having disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15). Jesus shows them what real power looks like. He doesn’t return violence with violence; He simply shows them that their power is no power at all.
The world has always been caught in the cycle of war. Violence always will lead to more violence. I’m not anti-war; it was good of us to defeat Hitler and the evil that he enabled. But wives still lost husbands; children still lost their fathers. The cost of such a war ripples through generations, and evil still exists all over the globe.
Wars of this type do bring temporary solutions but never THE solution. The only lasting solution that brings the peace we all so greatly desire is the Gospel. The Gospel is the greatest power, held by the greatest King. Some day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the real King and only then will we have peace.