Go to Him Outside the Camp – Greg Albrecht

On what we now call Palm Sunday, almost 2,000 years ago Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey. He was welcomed by people who had heard him preach—among whom were the poor, the diseased, the disenfranchised and outcasts, all of whom shouted “Hosanna!” to Jesus (Matthew 21:9, 15).

Many Christians think “Hosanna” has always been defined as a joyful worship word. It hasn’t. Hosanna means “save us now”— it was a cry of desperation, shouted at Jesus by the crowds as he entered Jerusalem. Most who greeted Jesus with “Hosanna” wanted physical relief from their physical problems and afflictions—but, in addition, there may well have been some who were at the end of their spiritual rope and hoped Jesus could save them spiritually.

Many Christians have traditionally called Palm Sunday the beginning of Passion Week—a week which started on a Sunday with Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem, and then, within a few days, the cheers that initially greeted him were overwhelmed by jeers. Passion Week is an ugly story of back room plotting—it’s a story of the despicable lengths to which established religion, ostensibly dedicated to love and service, will go when it’s threatened. Passion Week includes the themes of back stabbing, bribery, corruption and betrayal.

The events of Passion Week include Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, which we have come to call the Last Supper, followed by his arrest, his scourging and his trumped up, illegal religious trial. His trial was followed by an appearance before Pilate, the Roman governor who could not find him worthy of the death sentence that the religious leaders of that day demanded.

So Pilate, ever the politician, found a way to try to please everyone. Appealing to a Passover tradition that allowed a prisoner to receive freedom, Pilate offered the bloodthirsty mob a choice—they could choose one person to be set free. The mob would determine which one of two men would be spared, while the other would be killed in the most humiliating and painful way known at the time.

Pilate asked the crowd if he should spare Jesus, who had done no wrong, or Barabbas, a well-known, notorious prisoner (Matthew 27:16) who had apparently done little other than wrong. The mob decided that Barabbas should be spared and set free.

Jesus was tortured, then forced to drag his own cross outside the city—for by law the death to be imposed on him and two others could not take place within the city walls. Jesus and the two others being crucified that day were deemed so contemptible and despicable that they had to be killed outside the city—on top of a garbage dump.

And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.—Hebrews 13:12-14

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