Days begin with empty streets that gradually are filled as people pour into the avenues greeting friends and strangers. So many people were in Jerusalem that day, the day of the palms. Many had traveled far to visit family and celebrate the Passover together. They were preparing to go to the temple. They loved the beautiful temple that Herod was restoring.
It was a happy and joyous day, full of fun and singing. It must have made the Roman guards a bit worried having so many people crowding together. Mobs are difficult to handle.
Through the West Gate, Romans marched, led by men on horseback. Their very presence was a threat of force. Romans liked to keep order and kept it with the threat and promise of violence. When they wanted to display a show of force, they marched through the city. The strength of the Roman army encouraged the population to cooperate. The crucifixions along the roads discouraged uprisings and lawbreakers. Roman justice was quick and cruel. The Empire came through the West Gate bringing wealth, power, and violence.
This was the Roman way, what they considered the best way to live. But, there is another way to live, one that speaks of life, not death.
Through the East Gate, Jesus rode into Jerusalem, on the back of a donkey, not a magnificent war horse. He came, speaking of forgiveness, loving your neighbor and even your enemy. He spoke of sharing and caring for the poor, widow, and the orphan. This is a way of living that makes communities strong and safe for everyone, even the weakest among us. Jesus came through the East Gate, bringing justice, non-violence, and peace.
Make way for the King.
Ride on, O King, ride on to die. Our hopes are pinned on you.
[Thank you to Lindy Black, Sermon Fodder, and her reference to Marcus Borg’s distinction between the King who comes through the West Gate and the King who comes through the East Gate.]