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The United States suffered two mass shootings, one in Atlanta, Georgia, and the other in Boulder, Colorado, during a seven-day period.

With the cries of the victims and their families still echoing in our ears, the Christian church prepares to enter Holy Week in darkness.

In addition to the two mass shootings, a humanitarian crisis surges at the southern border, as asylum seekers from Central America continue to make the dangerous trek to the United States seeking a better life for their families.

Also, we are still coming to grips with the fact that a large part of the country is sympathetic to the seditionists who stormed the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Many of those people evoked the name of Jesus as they committed treason and sought to murder the vice president of the United States.

And lest we forget, the world still reels from the devastation of the global pandemic that enters its second year. We have lost so many precious lives, while others still suffer from the lingering consequences of the virus. Economically, most of the world waits to see when, and if, we can avoid a global recession.

I cannot help but compare the cultural climate of first-century Palestine with our own. When Jesus cast his gaze towards Jerusalem, he moved toward the City of David under a dark cloud.

Under Roman control, Palestine suffered from the perils of imperial constraints. Rome ruled with a clenched fist, while marginalized groups felt the sting of legal and economic oppression.

Religious and political elites positioned themselves to take advantage of their situation, while the common people suffered from systemic injustices – and the crucifixions intended to remind the people about the power of the empire.

When Jesus entered the Holy City on Palm Sunday, we often think of the praises from the crowd. We conjure up children waving branches and adults laying cloaks down before him.

However, as Jesus made his way down the street, another response echoed in the shadows. Matthew recalled (21:10), “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’”

It’s the word “stir” that catches our attention. The Greek word is eseisthe, which means to stir or agitate.

I’ve never seen this replayed on Sunday mornings in the sanctuaries where the people get “agitated” at the presence of Jesus.

More often than not, we think of Palm Sunday as celebratory. While there is no denying celebration was a part of the day, we must place this sacred moment in perspective.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem, people were suffering and seeking a liberator from their troubles.

They wanted rebellion against Rome. They wanted the elites to face revenge. They wanted revolution. They wanted a Messiah who would ride into Jerusalem on a warhorse.

From biblical and extra-biblical writings, we know how much Jews suffered from Roman occupation, political corruption and religious oppression. We know the common person desired to be free from such systems, even supporting violent rebellions over the years.

In Jesus, they thought they had another opportunity. However, when Jesus rode into the city on a young colt, they were confused.

Where was the warhorse? Where were the spears and shields? Where was his army?

They cheered his entrance, but they soon realized he was not the Messiah they wanted – even though he was the Messiah they needed.

Their shouts of praise quickly turned to shouts of death within the week.

When we permit hate to embed itself in our hearts, that hate can quickly spiral into violent acts that take away life.

From Holy Week to Atlanta and Boulder, hate remains the prevalent enemy that people of good faith must combat.

Time and time again, Jesus told his disciples they would be hated because of him (Matthew 6:24, 10:22, 24:9, and 24:10).

People do not like to hear that they must love their enemies, including the marginalized, and seek justice (not revenge) for the oppressed.

As the Christian church enters Holy Week, we do so with a similar dark cloud over us.

It would be easy to give in to hate. However, we must resist.

Jesus still rides into our lives offering a peace that surpasses all understanding and a hope that shines light into this life and the life to come.

Therefore, let the shouts of praise this Sunday drown out the shouts of agitation. Let the disciples of Jesus continue to offer the hope of a gospel that brings love to all, freedom to all and justice to all.

Maybe then the world will have a chance to experience the unparalleled peace of God.

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