“A clash of civilisations” is how the standoff between the West and radical Islam has been described as two mutually exclusive kingdoms face off against each other.
Well whatever the truth of that characterisation what we have heard this morning is a true clash of civilizations that came together in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago. More correctly it was a clash of Kingdoms.
In one corner you have all the kingdoms of the world represented by their current champion Rome – characterised by force, coercion, oppression, division, race, class, corruption, inequality and injustice and vice.
And in the other corner we have the kingdom of God characterised by love, gentleness peace, equality, freedom mercy and justice.
Both representatives of each kingdom have to enter Jerusalem. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, you see, doesn’t live in Jerusalem he lives on the coast in Caesarea Maritime and he only comes to Jerusalem to keep an eye on things at times like the big festivals like Passover.
And when Pilate came to Jerusalem he didn’t come quietly. He came with all the noise, bombast and spectacle he could muster to show the Jewish people who their real Boss was.
Pilate would have entered via the Western gate and it would have been a magnificent and awe inspiring show – trumpets and standards, war horses, chariots, flashing polished armour, marching soldiers, perhaps enough to put the fear of God into you.
Meanwhile on the East of the city, through the mount of olives, came the representative of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ, whole procession looked and felt very different. The Jesus procession was also planned. Jesus knew exactly where the colt was to be found and directed two of his disciples there to fetch it.
Jesus came into the city, not with fanfares and trumpets but with shouts of joy calling “Hosanna to the son of David” they strew palm leaved and their cloaks on the ground for him to walk on, the cloaks of the poor and the downtrodden to provide the welcome carpet.
He came not on a warhorse but a donkey.
This was the greatest clash of kingdoms in human history. The kingdoms of the world and our way of doing things and the kingdom of God and his way of doing things were to meet to confront each other in what in a week’s time would decide the winner.
And it wasn’t just the kingdoms of the world that Jesus was going to confront it was also corrupt religion, that compromised itself and collaborated with the oppressive kingdoms of this world.
Immediately after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem he went to the Temple to symbolically cleasnse it.
Though if you read Mark’s original account – you find something very interesting removed from Matthew and Luke’s account. They write that Jesus went immediately to the Temple after his triumphal entry and turned over the tables of the money changers as if it were a spontaneous act.
Very interesting that in Mark’s gospel, yes he does go to the Temple, but because it was late so the big crowds weren’t there so he went back to Bethany again and came back to turn over the tables in the morning when there would be much more impact, when there would be many more priests and scribes and Pharisees there to see it. (11:11)
Jesus was fully aware that there was going to be a grand clash that would pit Rome and the corrupt temple against the kingdom of God – that God was going to show how wrong both “church and state” in modern parlance really were.
So our scene is set for the climax of this confrontation.
Who will win I wonder?