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Palm Sunday 2011: END OF VIOLENCE

For days, Jesus and his disciples meet secretly outside Jerusalem. They plan where their weapons will be stored, where horses will be waiting, where various militia will assemble and wait until they receive the word to strike. They also organize crowds to hit the streets at just the right moment to create intimidation, distraction, and fear in the Romans and all those in Jerusalem who collaborate with them. "Operation Sacred Vengeance" is about to begin.

Then on Palm Sunday, Jesus mounts a white horse. He is carrying a huge sword, but has it hidden in a palm branch. His disciples are similarly well-armed with swords, daggers, and shields, all camouflaged behind palm branches. They are mounted on warhorses, prepared for battle. The word goes out and the crowds assemble. In each man's right hand is a sword or dagger raised to the sky, concealed beneath in a palm frond or coat. Each left hand is raised in a fist. Younger men and boys carry concealed torches, ready to light them, march on the city, and create mayhem when the battle begins. "Hosanna!" the people shout. "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord to execute vengeance on our enemies!"

Word spreads and people stream out from the city to welcome the freedom fighters.

As they cross the brow of the hill near Bethany and the city comes into view, Jesus gives a rousing speech. "It is wrong for the heathen idolators to have power over the faithful people of God!" he shouts. "That wrong must end today! We have suffered enough. Now we will make our persecutors suffer!" The people cheer and chant, "Victory! Victory! Crush the Romans! Kill the collaborators!"

"Who is with me in our holy cause?" Jesus asks. The crowds shout, "We are!" in a roar that echoes across the valley into the streets of Jerusalem. "Who is willing to fight to the death and avenge the blood of our ancestors?" Again the crowds shout, "We are!" "And who will shed a gallon of Roman blood for every drop of our blood that is shed?" Again the crowd erupts. Then the branches and coats are thrown to the ground and blades glisten in the sun.

The Pharisees hastily interrupt, nervous now that bold words are brimming over into action. "Shouldn't we wait a little longer until we have more weapons and troops? Some of our advisors think this battle is premature." "Are we trying to be Goliath, or are we David?" Jesus asks defiantly. "Those who live by restraint will die by restraint. Now is the time. Now is the day of annihilation for our enemies."

And so the battle for Jerusalem begins.

No. That is not what happened. And the differences are at the heart of the story of Holy Week.