(image BBC News Palm Sunday in India)
In the background, a dark and sinister plot lurks in the shadows. The Sanhedrin has already made a decision to find some pretext to arrest and kill him, to stop these wild and reckless ideas he is spreading. But none of that is apparent today. It’s beautiful, sunny spring day. The palms are lovely, the crowds adoring, and the colt is rather cute, too.
Ideas about nonviolence are a bit like this, too. Saying we believe in peace works great when everyone is getting along fine. On a sunny day. The test is how we respond when things aren’t going so well.
Reading events of that week, it seems to me that Jesus was nonviolent to the bitter end.
The imagery of himself being crucified, with men casting lots for his clothing, people taunting him to save himself, must have brought images from Psalm 22 to the mind of this Jewish descendant of David, who days before had been teaching in the temple:
All who see me mock me;In the time between his arrest and his death, Jesus never retaliates. He never fights back. He never says anything negative.
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the LORD,” they say,
“let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
As men were casting lots for his clothing, he prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Then, he recites aloud from the beginning of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” If you’re not careful, the path of nonviolence could end you looking something like this:
Is that something you and I are willing to do? People are doing it today. How many innocents have been killed this spring in Syria alone? In Sudan?
It’s easy to pay lip service to some worthy or noble cause, on a sunny, beautiful day. The true test of whether we believe what we say we do, is whether we put our money where our mouth is, on the day when it hurts.
As for myself, as I ponder these thoughts, I’d like to bring it to an even closer, more personal level. To have compassion for an other, to give of ourselves, to see the world in nonviolent terms, to live a life giving more than lip service to truth-force, we don’t have to look for a crucifix. For example, I have friends -- perhaps friends who may even read this post -- who have been there for me during times that were less than sunny. When I think of these friends, I am reminded of the fact that “a friend in need, is a friend in deed.” In matters large and small, our commitment and our willingness to live the life we claim to believe in, is the measure of who we really are and what we really stand for. Many times, I’ve fallen short. I’m grateful for the many times, and for the many people, who have stood in the gap for me. For both the profound, and for the simple and ordinary, I owe many thanks to my rainy day Saints.