Midweek Reflection by Pastor Shawn:
In any story or narrative, you're supposed to feel and think certain things. For example, in most every romantic comedy, we as the audience are supposed to really want the couple to end up together. Or in an action movie, we're supposed to cheer when the bad guy gets his. We're suppose to identify with the protagonist and see ourselves as belonging to the 'good guys' in the story.
This is how it normally works in a narrative. So much so, that it's very powerful when that convention is overturned. For example, in the film "No Country for Old Men", (SPOILERS AHEAD!) the monstrous serial killer gets away. And not in a, "oh, they left a cliffhanger to set it up for the sequel" kinda way. No, in that film, evil prevails. Good loses. And it's such a jarring bucking of storytelling convention that it stuck with me for weeks after I first saw it. It made me probe and poke around at my expectations and moral assumptions about the world.
In the gospel reading for this Palm Sunday, we have another overturning of narrative convention, this time a theological one. We will read about Jesus' trial and execution. In this story there's a crowd that, in spite of Pilate's very reasonable pleading, demands that Jesus be killed. Now, we as the readers of the gospels are keenly aware that he is innocent, and so their cries for blood cut through to us. "This wicked crowd, demanding the death of an innocent-and the Son of God, no less!" We've figured out that Jesus is the good guy and these shouts come from some of the bad guys.
But then we are supposed to realize that there are many bad guys in this story. The Jewish leaders. The Roman leaders. His cowardly disciples. The crowd. And then something important should happen: we realize that in this story, at this moment, we actually aren't on team Jesus. Suddenly a loud voice emerges from that crowd, and it's ours. We're in the middle of it.
We realize that our sin cries out "crucify!" louder than the mob that day.
And then we realize that we are reading a most unconventional story.