Lent, Day 40, Jordan Parr - The One We Need But Not The One We Want
The One We Need But Not The One We Want
They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” Matthew 21:7-11
In this passage it seems like everybody loves Jesus. Crowds are giving him a hero's welcome into Jerusalem complete with singing, dancing, and all kinds of celebrations... plus a donkey! The festivities are so extravagant "the whole city was stirred" meaning they must have been throwing Jesus a serious party. After all, why wouldn't they? Jesus is the man people are saying is the Messiah sent from God to set Israel free. Everyone has heard rumors about the prophet from Nazareth who teaches with authority and casts out demons in the synagogues. Tales of his miracles have spread throughout all Judea and everyone is intrigued by this man whose words restore the blind, crippled and unclean. Could this Jesus be the one foretold to inherit the throne of David? The one who will drive the gentiles out of the promised land so that Israel may be sovereign once again? The thought alone is intoxicating to most and Jerusalem is buzzing in anticipation that the revolution is about to begin. They are half right because the revolution is about to begin but it will not be the one they imagine; Jesus has not come to kill Romans but to die himself instead.
Even though Jesus has been speaking about his death for some time now, the thought that the Holy One of Israel must die is so inconceivable and so scandalous that even his most devoted disciples refuse to consider it. Earlier in Matthew's Gospel Jesus sharply rebukes Peter, going so far as to call him Satan, when he attempts to dismiss the necessity of the Passion. If Jesus' closest comrades cannot accept his coming death then the multitudes lining the streets of Jerusalem will be even more bitterly disappointed when Christ proves himself to be a different kind of Messiah than what they are expecting. Perhaps the most poignant detail about the triumphal entry into Jerusalem is that the same people singing "Hosanna in the highest!" will be the same ones chanting "Crucify him!" only a few days later. The Passion reveals how Jesus did not come to fulfill mankind's desires but to accomplish the Father's redemptive plan and this is one of the many lessons we glean from Holy Week.
In my own spiritual walk I confess there are times I am amongst the crowd; cheering for Jesus one moment and turning my back on him the next. When I stumble into this attitude it shows how much my faith still needs to mature because ruminating on what I want Jesus to do for me instead of asking how I can partner with what he's already doing is missing the mark. I have to remind myself Jesus knows infinitely better than I do what any situation needs and by trying to fit him into my plan I miss an opportunity to align with God's plan. The Jews wanted a general who would marshal the troops to kick the Romans out of Israel and restore their geopolitical aspirations. Instead they got a rabbi riding a donkey and because they were so fixated on the clay beneath their feet they missed the Kingdom of Heaven. As we celebrate Palm Sunday let us be among those who sing "Hosanna" out of love for who Jesus is instead of who we want him to be.
Jordan has interned at Malibu Pres for three years and loves our church. He is graduating from Talbot School of Theology's Master of Divinity program next month when he is also getting married to a girl he met in the Christmas Choir.
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