In the spring of 2010, I crossed the finish line of the OKC Memorial Half Marathon with one of my dearest friends—my first half marathon. We ran it in the cold rain, with frozen toes and wearing garbage bags. My friend and I laughed much of the way through the stew, hopped up on our own gumption and in a poor effort to get warm. We also wondered about our sanity. Being out there was madness.
Warmth would not be ours until long after we crossed the finish line. But oh, that finish line. I had been promised a gauntlet of spectators, but the weather scared them off, and rightly so. I didn’t care. I didn’t need strangers to cheer me on when my own heart was swollen with pride at accomplishing my heretofore audacious plan.
I remember putting the medal around my neck and standing in the shivering day, smiling like a fool.
I ran a half marathon. Me. The un-athlete. My friend and I chugged icy cold chocolate milk and wrapped ourselves in pathetic mylar blankets. They did little to warm my body, but I was still triumphant.
I’m thinking about Palm Sunday and the Triumphal entry. Crowds of people hurling adoration at Jesus, the poor self-named King. I’m thinking about the weight of his knowledge, and the careless lightness of his friends who could not carry the truth before it was time. I’m thinking that all they could imagine was this fine and luminous moment, as others validated the crazy things they had believed for years now about this strange man from Nazareth.
I’m thinking his friends were like me, drinking their chocolate milk, happy to know they would be fed that night. Satisfied to be have finally reached the party, maybe looking for their medals, grabbing a handful of bagels, dousing each other with Gatorade and mugging for photos. Totally unaware of the long and painful trudge to the real end.
Entering Jerusalem wasn’t the finish line, but it sure sounds like a great Hollywood place to end the story. Doesn’t it? Victory. Hordes of swirling, happy masses. Palm fronds and spontaneous eruptions of kingly recognition.
Palm Sunday is one of the weirdest events on the Church calendar. It’s like this premature party ahead of certain death.
Still, the day Jesus entered Jerusalem marked a few pretty rad things. First, people who formerly did not recognize him now implicitly understood his authority. Second, it’s the lead up to one of the most powerful weeks in history. While Hollywood would roll the credits, I’m content to revel, and wait for what I know is just a few days away.