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Someone was speaking persuasively at church this Sunday about how “The Triumphal Entry” might be bit of a misnomer for Christ’s arrival to Jerusalem before the Passion. The crowd had a triumphalist understanding of what Jesus was doing that day, but Jesus certainly didn’t. It is not as if Jesus beheld this crowd which was beholding him and thought to himself, “At last, the masses are finely getting it!” To the contrary, he was surely aware that this crowd’s triumphalist ideations were incongruent with what would actually be unfolding when he arrived in Jerusalem.

So, I was struck with a parallel that I had never before considered. Next week we’ll be done with the story of an ignorant crowd leading Jesus into Jerusalem to a place of supposed honor, and we’ll be recounting the story of how an ignorant crowd led Jesus out of Jerusalem to a place of execution. On neither occasion does Jesus protest, and yet, neither does he acquiesce.

On the donkey, with palm fronds and cloaks dropping before him, Jesus doesn’t snatch up the obsequious on-lookers and start trying to shake some sense into them, “Look, you know I’m going to get handed over when I get there, don’t you? It ain’t like this is going to be a storybook ending! Snap out of it!!” Neither, presumably, does he buy into all the fuss and indulge in his own ideations of triumphalism. He merely accepts cries of well-wishing from the crowd without them altering who he is.

So it is also with the crossbeam on his bloodied back, or with it on Simon of Cyrene’s back. Jesus neither scolds the crowd for their shameful misdeeds nor does he give a sympathetic ear to their accusations and sneers. He receives the abuses of the crowd without them altering who he is.

This unalterable one is fully human. Being fully human, he is fully mimetic, i.e. he is always modeling someone else’s behavior. Crucially, however, on both of these occasions, he moves in a realm beyond the modes of mediation presented to him by the crowd. He remains steadfast as a mediated subject who’s mediator forgives in every situation.

Whether it is confused adulation or ignorant vilification, Jesus forgives. On the one hand, having exactly the same response to two completely different circumstances might indicate that Jesus is not actually “responding” at all; rather, he is the one who is acting on the crowd even when it really looks like they are acting on him. (I think this observation might be helpful for theologians wishing to sidestep the heresy of patripassianism.) On the other hand, having exactly the same response to two seemingly different circumstances might also indicate to us that these two are actually the one and the same circumstance. I.e., when human adoration goes awry, we vilify someone innocent. Similarly, when we make someone out to be a villain, we are woefully confused about who we are adoring.