This Palm Sunday morning I want to reflect on a story of a controversial figure – everyone in the nation had heard of him, he was loved by some and hated by others. He seemed to always speak his mind , and every word was analysed – and hailed as wit and wisdom by his followers, while being heavily criticised by his detractors. This man has had enthusiastic supporters cheering him on, and jeering crowds baying for punishment.
The man’s initials are JC.
I am, of course, talking about Jeremy Clarkson.
Clarkson has always been a controversial figure, hated by environmentalists and people with… …a brain; and loved by car fanatics and right-wingers.
If you have spent this week in a cave (who knows, maybe you have been living in a cave for Lent) you may have missed Clarkson being sacked for punching Oisin Tymon, the producer of the BBC show Top Gear.
There have been campaigns and opinion polls and petitions to reinstate Clarkson.
The idea of “Celebrity” is an interesting concept. The debate was more about people’s love or hate of Clarkson than it was to do with the rights or wrongs of the incident.
The idea of “Celebrity” stops people being people in their own rights, but gives them a deeper symbolism and meaning for those who either love or hate them. Clarkson is either a bold spokesperson for the beleaguered motorist, standing up to the politically correct consensus… Or he’s an arrogant, vaguely sexist, vaguely racist, vaguely homophobic relic who’s denial of climate change makes him a dangerous idiot. More likely than that he is a TV presenter you either warm to or want to punch in his smug face…
Palm Sunday is a day where the concept of “Celebrity” or its first century equivalent takes centre stage (which it is in celebrity’s nature to do!).
Jesus has been a wandering preacher for three years. With mixed success: Crowds have flocked to hear him. But he was rejected in his own community, and the authorities hated him.
Then on the first Palm Sunday Jesus Parades into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Our liturgy says:
“Behold your King comes to you,
meek and lowly,
sitting on a donkey!”
However, we would be mistaken if we saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey as a symbol of Jesus humility. Riding into a city on a donkey was not a sign of humility, but a sign of Kingship. A King at war would ride into a city on a horse, but a King coming in peace would ride a donkey. The crowd certainly understood the symbolism, and hailed Jesus as ‘the Son of David’.
Jesus is defiant as he walks toward his fate. The crowd, along with the disciples are delirious. The disciples were euphoric – they thought this was their time of triumph was at hand… They were marching with confidence into the stronghold of their enemies. Surly they came to pull down the authorities that condemned them and their leader. Surely their Messiah would oust the Romans. Surely the Kingdom of God was at hand, and this was the pivotal moment.
The Kingdom of God was at hand. This was the moment that Jesus ministry had been building up to, but it was not how the disciples imagined as they cried ‘Hosanna’ on the first Palm Sunday. If they really knew what it was all about they would not desert Jesus on Good Friday, leaving the women to quietly keep the faith.
They came to Jesus for many reasons. A famous person, doing something unusual in public always gathers a crowd, and Jesus was famous. He was famous because of the healings that had been reported, and many people would have gathered to see a miracle – to see some magic worked. Others heard of his criticisms for the religious authorities, and many would have liked that, and come to see the pompous be deflated by this bolshey satirist, whose jibes about logs in eyes of the authorities, and ‘whitewashed tombs’ were the toast of every disreputable inn in Palestine. Others would have heard the rumours that Jesus was the Messiah, and gathered to see if he really could do away with the Romans. Perhaps I’m biased, having been brought up in Northern Ireland, but I imagine that it was those desiring political independence, who wanted the Romans to go home, that made up the bulk of the crowd.
And here we part from any simiularity with th host of a motoring show. Jesus was not an ‘entertainer.’
Jesus words and actions set beople free, he broke down barries that divided people, he accepted the ourcast and proclaimed a new world order where the last and the least were the most important and valued.
But along the way he has upset too many if those with a vested interest in the status quo and a tragedy is about to unfold…