Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. –C.S. Lewis
PRAYER: (From the Lectionary)
“Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
SCRIPTURES: (From the Lectionary)
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?” (Matt 21:9-10 NIV)
PRAYER FOCUS: Jerusalem.
Jerusalem wasn’t just any city. It was THE City. At the time of Jesus’ triumphal entry described in Matthew’s gospel it had been the center of Jewish identity and imagination for more than one thousand years. King David reigned in Jerusalem. King Solomon built the First Temple there. It evoked those days of might and glory. It was more than the capital of Judea. Jerusalem was the heart of the Jewish nation, of both Judea and Israel.
Jerusalem was also the city of Jesus’ lament; the city who murdered the prophets (Matt 23:37). It was where the gospel was first preached, and where it was first persecuted (Acts 8:1). If Jerusalem was a city of death, it was also a city of destiny. It was the setting for the events of Holy Week, beginning with what we now call Palm Sunday.
Some Biblical Scholars now believe there were two processions on that Passover day: Pontius Pilate from the west, and Jesus of Nazareth from the east (Borg & Crossan, The Last Week, Harper-Collins, 2006).
According to independent sources from that period of ancient history (e.g., Flavius Josephus, Tacitus) it was the custom of the Roman Procurator of Palestine to reside in Jerusalem during the Passover–not to participate in the Jewish ritual, but rather to pre-empt any trouble the festival might generate. Pilate would have traveled from the Colonial Headquarters at Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast, riding into Jerusalem on horseback with a large detachment of Roman soldiers, including cavalry, and with enough fanfare to intimidate any restive Jews into acquiescence. It was a demonstration of physical strength and brute force.
In contrast Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, to the cheers and wild celebration of masses of people. They waved palm branches and cried “Hosanna,” which means “save us.” Jesus didn’t discourage either their celebration or their cries for action. In fact, when some religious officials expressed their concern that the commotion might provoke the Romans, Jesus replied that if the crowd were to become silent, the very stones would cry out. The religious leaders didn’t get it.
The city of Jerusalem turned out to see both processions. They seethed at the hated Romans. They cheered the prophet from Nazareth. Surely the man who cast out vile demons could do the same with these occupiers from Rome. This king will conquer our enemies and command peace throughout the land (Zech, 9:9-10). The people in the streets didn’t get it either.
Surely there were many motives in play on that first Palm Sunday, but it seems that among them, no one really understood Who Jesus truly was. Ultimately, the people of Jerusalem didn’t confront their false expectations very well. Only a few days later, they would not be cheering Hosanna. Instead they would scream “Crucify him” and “Give us Barabbas.” They would embrace the very Romans they hated.
Are we like them? How do we respond, how do we feel, when we pray for help and the answer doesn’t come in the way or in the time we hoped for?
Following Jesus means living a life of learning. The first Christians eventually discovered that Jesus was not going to overthrow the governments that oppressed them. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t enable us to live disaster-proof lives. But, as we pray today, if we share in His sufferings, we will also share in His resurrection.
There are many legitimate reasons to seek out Jesus Christ, and the Lord graciously receives them all. Yet how often is our motivation primarily crisis-driven? We find ourselves in trouble and cry, “Lord, save me!” We seek Jesus for help, and we should. But what are our expectations?
Do we also seek Him for Who He IS?
It’s Monday Morning. This week let us lift our praise and our prayers to our Savior, but let us also lift our eyes above our circumstances and seek out the Son of God. Learn the answer to “Who is this?”