I’ve just posted a piece over on the Political Theology blog, on the subject of Palm Sunday. Within it, I argue that, when we listen carefully to the narrative of Luke’s gospel again, as if we didn’t already know its conclusion, kingdom themes will probably appear far more prominently.
Extricating ourselves from the vantage points of Good Friday and Easter Sunday to view the events of Palm Sunday on their own terms, however, as if we did not already know how the story was going to end, may lead us to ask different sorts of questions. What might strike the reader of Luke’s account, from the Triumphal Entry until the Last Supper, are the prominent themes of authority, rule, and kingship.
Entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus is heralded as the king. In the few days that follow, he cleanses the Temple, defends his royal authority against a variety of opponents, gives several judgment sayings declaring the coming destruction of Jerusalem that his future advent in judgment will bring, identifies himself as the Messianic Son of David and the Danielic Son of Man (who will have a universal empire, with all peoples, nations, and languages serving him), speaks of the way that his disciples will sit on twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel, and affirms before the Sanhedrin that he is the Son of God and before Pilate that he is the King of the Jews.
Read the whole thing here.
“Destined to become Christus Imperator, avenging the blood of the prophets.” Quite right. You allude to the destruction of Jerusalem as one fulfillment of God’s placing of all things under Christ’s feet. Is the conversion of the pagan empire also a significant moment of fulfillment? It appears that at that time Christ appointed his own loyal subjects to rule over the once unruly nations on his behalf.
I think it would be fair to say that it is.
Why do you frame this as hearing it for the first time, rather than on attending to themes that we can miss when we read too quickly?
Specifically, it isn’t clear to me that Scriptural texts are meant to be read “for a first time”: Are they not meant to be be read and repeated again and again, from childhood up? But if they are read and repeated from childhood up, for the majority of people, there really won’t be a first time: They will always be encountered as already there, already familiar.
Novels are meant to be read “a first time”, and even novels that we’ve encountered since we were children (say, in a family that read Austin every evening), because we now read them as novels, we look for the unexpected surprise, that is now familiar. But it isn’t at all clear to me that that mode of reading is universal, or that Scripture is meant to be read that way.
Mostly because it is about a particular mode of attention, a peculiar way of attending to the text that better recognizes the asymmetries of ‘context’. While context is often imaginatively spatialized, with all details of the text treated as synchronically present to our minds (like reading a map), reading as if for the first time involves purposeful engagement with the text as temporally unfolding (like following an itinerary), with meanings in suspension and later events obscured by the horizon in which our reading occurs. Context, experienced this way, is something that arrives, leading events to assume different aspects as the narrative progresses.
Clearly, this isn’t the only way that we should be reading Scripture. Rereading Scripture as those who have read it before is a primary form of reading we should be practising, as it facilitates attention to the way that the narrative is drawn towards its conclusion.