Who Got Da Power?
I hate it when jingles get stuck in my head, especially stupid jingles. Every time I return to Mark’s “Palm Sunday” story, I hear this insipid, annoying sports cheer from High School days. I would be sitting in the stands on Friday night, watching a football game, when the cheerleaders would try to pump up the crowd by asking, “Power, power, who got da power?” The student body would respond, “Vikings, Vikings, we got da power” – a verbal warning not to mess with our awesome team.
“Power, power, who got da power” is not only an annoying sports cheer, it is Mark’s favorite refrain. From the first verse of his Gospel, Mark leaves no doubt who has the power. He tells us from the first verse of the Gospel that Jesus has the exousia, a Greek word for power. From the moment Jesus comes out of the baptismal waters until he is stripped bare and hung on an executioner’s pole, Mark chants, “Jesus, Jesus, he’s got da power.”
Tell that to the characters in Mark’s Gospel. They never seem to get it or get him. That is nowhere any clearer than along the parade route for what tradition calls “Palm Sunday.” In Mark’s Gospel, the crowd lines the street entering Jerusalem as they shout loud hosannas for the Lion King of David. “Hosanna” is what they shout, which is a shorthand cheer for: “Power, power, Jesus got da power.” They are ready for Jesus to stop pretending to be a gentle lamb and to start behaving like a roaring lion, start crushing the Roman reign of terror.
After all, if you have got the kind of power Jesus has, why not clean up the streets, get rid of anyone and everyone who stands in the way, and send the Romans running for the sea? For that matter, why not clean up the world, and for God’s sake, the world could stand a good cleaning.
And yet as Mark tells the story, nothing of that sort happens during or after the parade. Jerusalem is never assaulted by a legion of gun-toting angels. The tanks never enter the city. No statues fall. No liberating flags wave. Caesar still rules the land with an iron fist. Jews still hate Gentiles and Gentiles still hate Jews.
In verse eleven, Mark writes: “Then Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple, and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” What an anti-climax! What a bust of a parade! No fireworks. No revolution. No “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. Who thought of that title anyway?!
Jesus does returns to Jerusalem the next day, but he does so unarmed. He returns to the temple, looks at how the temple has become a holy hideout to avoid social responsibility, a religious hangout for those who want to massage their personal spiritual muscles and ignore the rest of the world. As soon as Jesus pronounces the temple dead it means that he is as good as dead for speaking those words.
Power, power, who got da power? Earlier in the Gospel, Jesus says, “Those who seek to save their lives, will lose them; those who lose them for my sake and the gospel, will find them.” Mark loves irony and it shines brightly here; it is the great paradox of power – those who follow the One who gave up his life will know life like they have never known it before because they will know the power of suffering, redemptive love.
Yesterday, thousands of children, youth, and adults paraded in Washington, D.C., on the downtown mall in Charlottesville, in major cities and small towns across the country. Jill, Grant, Jessie, and Marissa Duffield were part of the D.C. march yesterday. Earlier earlier this week, Jill made this powerful connection between the Palm Sunday parade and the holy parades held throughout our nation yesterday. She writes:
“Saturday's march against gun violence is not untethered from Sunday's procession for Jesus no matter where you come out on kids walking out or walking up, bump stocks, assault weapons or background checks. Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is Jesus' entry into Washington and Parkland, Newtown and Columbine, Aleppo and Ferguson, Charlottesville and St. Louis, Kabul and Taiz. Jesus is coming to all the places in desperate need of him - the places and the people who need to know that the Prince of Peace, Son of David, is the Priest with the power to heal, the Prophet who brings God's justice and the King who rules both heaven and earth.
“What are you doing? We are waving palms and singing Hosanna, welcoming the Lord, prophet, priest and king, who is coming into our streets, on the way to the cross, to turn the current world order upside down.
“Why are you doing this? Because we want to follow Jesus and be part of the new, life-giving, creation-redeeming thing God is doing through him . . .
“What we do on Sunday cannot be extricated from marches on Saturday or our actions on Monday. The one who enters Jerusalem, humble and on a donkey, is the very one who will take on the sin of the world, be executed, die and be buried, raised from the grave and ascend into heaven, to judge the living and the dead. Nothing is off limits to our Lord. That is why we do what we do on Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and Easter Sunday and every Sunday afterwards. We make public our loyalty and our love for Jesus Christ, and our commitment to follow the Lord of All, every day, everywhere, anywhere.”
So, on this Palm Sunday when we have waved our palm fronds and sung our “hosannas,” it is time to make a choice. It is time to decide if we will march in the growing parade of violence in our land or will we march with the One who practiced non-violence and redeemed even the most violent assault called crucifixion. It is time to decide if we march to the mind-numbing beat of nuclear madness and pre-emptive war or will we march with the One who practiced peace and commissioned all who follow him to do the same.
On this weekend of parades, it is time to decide who has the power to guide and fulfill our lives, who has the final claim on our lives. It is time to sing a silly jingle that is really not silly at all: Power, power, who got da power? Jesus, arrested, assaulted, crucified, and resurrected, he got da power.
I don’t know about you, but I just can’t get that jingle out of my head.