the king of simplicity, the king of the poor
There’s a detail of the story of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem that we don’t necessarily catch, but that I find significant: the crowd that is accompanying Jesus is not made up of inhabitants of Jerusalem, that place of political intrigue and religious power. Instead this is the rag-tag band of misfits that have followed Jesus to Jerusalem, and it is they who are announcing to that place of worldly power that a new king has come, and a new kind of king, with a new kind of authority, rather than mere power.
There are other details too that we don’t catch unless we read a little further into the text of Matthew, which reinforce this theme. Right after this entry into the Holy City, Jesus cleanses the temple, driving out the buyers and sellers. And then right after that the blind and the lame come to him. And then the children start crying out, echoing the song of the crowd at his entrance into Jerusalem, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ So Jesus comes in in a parade that sort of mocks the Roman emperor’s entrance, he drives out the moneychangers, he skips over the religious authorities––and then replaces them all with the outsiders, the poor, and the children. This is all in keeping with Jesus’ message throughout his life, the littleness, the humility, the powerlessness and the poverty before God that is necessary to pass through the eye of the needle.
This isn’t a socio-political revolution; it’s a spiritual one, a religious one. By anchoring the story in that quote from Zechariah––‘Behold, your king shall come to you humbly, riding on a donkey[i]––Matthew does away with any kind of political zealotry and draws a sharp contrast to worldly power. As Pope Benedict wrote about this event, “Jesus is not building on violence; he is not instigating a military revolt against Rome. His power is of another kind: it is in God’s poverty, God’s peace, that he identifies the only power that can redeem.” As a matter of fact Jesus “is a king who destroys the weapons of war, a king of peace and a king of simplicity, a king of the poor.”[ii] Pope Benedict ties all this in with the beatitudes: Jesus tells us through all this that “The earth ultimately belongs to the meek, to the peaceful.”[iii]
We along with all those outside of the centers of power, in solidarity with the blind and the lame, along with the children––let’s proclaim this king today, and welcome him into our hearts, into our lives and our community, this king who destroys the weapons of war, the king of peace, the king of simplicity, the king of the poor; and pray that we may be counted with the meek who will inherit the earth, and the peacemakers who will be called children of God.
[i] Zec 9:9
[ii] Jesus of Nazareth, Book II, 4-5.
[iii] Jesus of Nazareth, Book I, 84.