Palm Sunday lessons and reflections
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-04-17
Heralded in the Gospels of Luke, Matthew, John and Mark as the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, we celebrate today what is known in Christendom as Palm Sunday.

Let’s leave it to the religious leaders to belabor the religious and spiritual aspects of Palm Sunday. In this discussion, let’s reflect instead on the various aspects of human nature as these influenced the events of Holy Week. The entire week which starts from Palm Sunday all the way to Easter Sunday is rich with important lessons for us Filipinos. These lessons could enlighten and help us end our decades-old national Calvary.

The most important lesson from the Palm Sunday experience is that glory is very fleeting - that an adoring crowd could easily transform into a condemning mob. Jesus Christ never veered from His path and didn’t deserve condemnation and execution just days after Palm Sunday. Jesus Christ was crucified not because of a betrayal of public trust but because of the machinations of powerful groups that were against Him.

The sudden turn of events from Palm Sunday to Good Friday were orchestrated by vested interests - notably the Pharisees and the Zealots. The Pharisees and the Zealots conspired to turn and manipulate the fickle mob against Christ. The Pharisees wanted to get rid of Jesus Christ because He posed a serious threat to their power base. The traitor among the 12 Apostles, Judas Iscariot, believed to be a Zealot, wanted to manipulate Jesus Christ in order to end their nation’s subjugation under Imperial Rome.

When you review the dynamics of what made the Pharisees and Judas Iscariot conspire against Christ, you’ll find the convergence of two very different objectives. The Pharisees cannot afford to allow Christ to become more influential. He was a direct threat to them and so it became a case of Christ or us.

For Judas and the Zealots, they were united with Christ in wanting to guide the people back to God - but for different reasons. The Zealots believed that when the Jews return to God, then a Messiah shall be sent to end the Roman rule and reestablish the independent kingdom of Israel. Where Christ was spiritual, the Zealots and Judas Iscariot were focused on the temporal.

For a political leader, the lesson of the Christ experience with the fickle mob is priceless. A leader should never take the public for granted. It’s not enough to be simply good and faithful to your mandate and your principles. It’s equally important that the people you serve know and appreciate what you’re doing for them and for the country. It’s imperative that the people know that your program is the best way to attain their big national aspirations.

Another important lesson for a leader from the Palm Sunday experience is - make sure that you get good people who will not run out on you and can speak up for you when it counts the most. The followers of Jesus Christ hardly became a factor when the Pharisees were priming the Jerusalem mob.

You know that you have good people when they perform at their best and shine for you during those times when you’re besieged and threatened. Good pawns are there to take the blows away from the king. If the king has to protect the pawns, then the chess game is lost.

The celebrated author of the classic play “Enemy of the People” - Henrik Ibsen - provides a cynical view of the majority. Ibsen thinks that the majority is always wrong. If Ibsen is to be the barometer, then the crowd is prone to hailing false Messiahs and executing genuine ones. In a way, the saga of Holy Week supports Ibsen’s thesis.

In our society, it’s very likely that many times a lot of people will get it wrong. That’s because majority of Filipinos can be considered as benighted. They suffer from the Information and Education Gaps. Many Filipinos do not even know their real history, their country’s real friends and concealed exploiters. There is also the misdirected media that fail to provide the proper context, insights and perspectives that will allow the public a full appreciation of the issues and the facts surrounding these issues.

The British public generally tends to think first about the dimensions and ramifications of a development before they start feeling an emotion - be it one of support or condemnation. As seen from the Ninoy Aquino 1983 assassination, the Filipino has to be jolted emotionally before they will consider changing their impressions of certain issues. If not for the Ninoy assassination, Filipinos would have continued living in the fantasy that the Marcos dictatorship was the best thing that ever happened to us.

An emotional and less discerning public is prone to the manipulation of the modern day Pharisees and Zealots. Our contemporary history has been a never ending cycle of Holy Week “hail now and then nail later” actuations of the fickle mob.

Instead of junking leaders who deserved to be nailed, we foolishly entrusted them with power. We paid a dear price for our misplaced trust - not just in terms of money stolen from us but for the damage it did to our national psyche. We’ve had a few good and trust worthy leaders but just like the Jerusalem mob - we’ve allowed ourselves to be influenced by the Pharisees and Zealots amongst us. Instead of supporting our good leaders, we listened to the Pharisees and the Zealots and made it harder for them to serve and save us.

Still another lesson from Palm Sunday is that Church and State should really be separate. Roman Governor of Judea Pontius Pilate proved kinder to the Christ than the religious leaders who wanted His crucifixion. If Pilate had his way, Christ would not have been crucified.

Some of the bloodiest episodes of human history were the wars of religions, whether between the sects of a religion, like the Protestants and Catholics or the Muslim Sunnis and Shiites, or between religions, like Christians versus Muslims. Somehow, man tends to become more bloodthirsty and ruthless when fighting in the name of God and righteousness.

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