By: Bob Reid
Luke tell us that Jesus began his public ministry by reading these words in the temple:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that at the end of Jesus’ public ministry the poor are front and center. It is the poor who accompany Jesus into Jerusalem the day we have come to call Palm Sunday. We know this, Caleb reminded us, because Jesus enters the city on the East Side. Like most ancient cities and many still today, the wealthier people live in the higher parts of a city, while the poor live in its lower parts; the lower parts get the runoff, the waste.
Earlier in Luke's gospel, soon after Jesus frames his ministry as good news for the poor, he says this: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Matthew says Jesus said, “poor in spirit”. It would seem likely that he said both. The trouble is that the rich almost always seem to find it more difficult to recognize their (our) spiritual poverty, perhaps because they (we) are so seldom reminded of their (our) vulnerability and brokenness.
Caleb reminded us that while Jesus was entering on the poor side of Jerusalem, Pilate was entering the city on the “Upper West Side”, not far from where the religious leaders lived. Luke’s geography paints a vivid theological picture for us. The poor welcome Jesus, and the rich and the powerful crucify him. What is so amazing about the gospel, however, is that God’s love is for all people, even those who resist him the most, even those who conspire to kill Jesus unjustly. Later, in the book of Acts, Luke tells us that among the many converts in Jerusalem were a great number of the temple priests, an important reminder that the gospel does reach the Upper West side too. We serve a great God!