Palm Sunday Powder-keg
By Joseph Ellis
I don’t want to give the impression that I am comparing any politician to Jesus, that is not the case, so please don’t read that into this piece. However, the days of Jesus and our political environment are remarkably similar. I think what muddles that comparison for us is that the political parties in Jesus’ day were also religious parties and leaders, we don’t really have that.
Just like the United States today, Israel was pretty much a two party system in the first century. There were isolated voices outside the established parties, but there wasn’t another group that could really contend for political power. On the one side were Sadducees who really had the inside track to the Roman officials and also maintained temple rituals and regulations. They were kind of like our Democrat party today. On the other side were the Pharisees. This group was quite a bit more conservative (not fiscally, I don’t want to take the comparison too far) in their practice of religious law, and were the party of choice for people who could have been seen as fundamentalist religiously – as you may have guessed, kind of like Republicans.
However, also like our present-day, there was a Tea-Party. This group was conservative like the Pharisees, but was tired of what they saw as leadership interested in power instead of change. This group consisted of the Zealots and others who were interested in revolution, and they were a group Jesus found himself surrounded by often.
In one frenzied moment, Jesus had to escape the crowd that was going to make him king. Of course, this was counter to his plan according to the gospels, and would have unleashed Rome’s military might on many of the people. However, it was this populist momentum that scared the other two parties immensely. Jesus represented the people and the changes they wanted, and because of this he became the target for Pharisees and Sadducees.