You have devised a shameful thing for your house by cutting off many peoples; so you are sinning against yourself. Surely the stone will cry out from the wall, And the rafter will answer it from the framework. "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed And founds a town with violence!"… (Habakuk 2:10-12)
Jesus saw that violence was endemic in the city of Jerusalem--Romans imposing their rule through violence, and Jews violently resisting Roman hegemony. Jesus understood that violence is not the answer. "Those who live by the sword perish by the sword," he told his disciples when they to used violence to try to rescue him. Jesus came to rescue Jerusalem and all humanity through the power of nonviolence, the power of self-sacrificial love.
This Gospel was written down after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Zealous Jews had driven out the Roman army using violent means, and the Romans had responded with utterly brutal retaliation. They razed the Temple to the ground, used its gold to build the Coloseum, and drove the Jews into exile, much as Jesus had predicted.
No doubt many Jews wondered: What was God doing when our City was ravaged by the Romans? Why did he destroy us?
Jesus provided an answer. God wept. And then God took action. He sent His son, His anointed one, to show "the ways that lead to peace."
This story reminded me of a time when my seven-year-old nephew asked me what God looked like. My sister is not a church goer and my nephew had not been to Sunday school, but he was a curious boy with a questioning mind. I didn't give him an answer, but told him that when we went to the Metropolitan Museum, I would show him how artists have portrayed God. When we went to the museum, he avidly studied the icons in the Medieval section but said very little. Afterwards, we went to a Chinese restaurant where crayons and paper were provided for children. My nephew decided to draw his image of God.
What my nephew drew was amazing: Jesus on the cross, with two thieves on crosses next to him. In the sky was a picture of God's bearded face, and tears were pouring from his eyes.
That picture was etched in my mind. God weeping over this horrendous scene, his tears falling like rain.
But God and Jesus did not simply weep. They also took action. After his tears dried, Jesus boldly went into Jerusalem. Filled with righteous rage, he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and spoke truth to power. He resisted oppression through nonviolence, and let himself be arrested and punished, even to death. He set an example for us of what it means to be a nonviolent liberator.
God also took action. He didn't allow Jesus, his beloved, to rot in a grave. God raised Jesus from the dead, to the amazement of his grieving followers. Through the power of a love that cannot be killed, the resurrected Christ started a movement that transformed the world.
The tears of God and of Jesus became a river of love and justice, flowing like a mighty stream throughout the course of history. This is the message of Palm Sunday. May we enter that prophetic stream and follow the ways that lead to justice and peace!