(photo courtesy of www.HolyLandPhotos.org)
Finding Ourselves in the Crowd
Luke 18:31-34 And taking the twelve, he said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentile sand will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him, and the third day he will rise. But they understood none of these things; this saying was hid from them, and the did not grasp what he said."
Four chapters later, James and John request that they could sit on his right hand and his left.
Did you even hear what he said, James and John? The son of man must die! He's going to die and all you're concerned about his who gets to be first in line. Does anybody understand who he really is? Why must you put your anticipations upon him? Why can't you let him be himself? Why are your only concerns selfish when your master is about to suffer and die? Is it because you really can't believe anything will ever happen to this powerful man? Is it because all you can think of is that your dreams of a Messiah overthrowing the Romans has blinded your vision and made you deaf? And you James and John, might dare to dream you are able to drink the cup he is about to drink? Surely, you think, surely, if it leads to glory we can do anything...
The rest of the disciples become angry with James and John. Is it only because they didn't think of making the request first? And how does Jesus handle this dispute among his friends? "Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader, as the one who serves."
And they could not understand...they didn't know how quickly Jesus would show them exactly what he meant by that statement...
"Son of David have mercy on me!" Cries blind Bartimaeus as Jesus enters Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. Jesus heals him. His impending week of sorrows does not keep him from having compassion on those who cry out to him.
He prepares to enter Jerusalem, knowing what will happen if he does. They come to Bethany, near the Mount of Olives. Jesus tells his disciples to go into the city to get a colt for him to ride upon. The people are curious; the disciples tell them what Jesus had said...the Lord has need of this colt. It seems perhaps then the curious followed the disciples to Jesus. The people begin to gather. They throw their cloaks on the colt, they spread leafy branches...
This is the man who had heals the blind. Who had fed the five thousand. How many in that crowd had been fed? This is only one with any kind of power. The Zealots had not been able to free them, with their system of vigilante justice, attacking Roman soldiers and officials. Their own religious leaders were so corrupt the common people found no direction from them. Where is God? Surely he must be found in this man acting just like the Messiah prophesied in Scripture. Not all these thoughts crossed everyone's mind, of course, but it is so easy to get caught up in a moment, to get caught up in what the mob is doing
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."
He had said when John's disciples asked him in if he was the Messiah that the lame walk the blind see the hungry are fed...hadn't he said himself that he was the one they were all waiting for? Waving and shouting they followed him into Jerusalem
But the nagging question in the back of their minds continued to pound...why is he riding on a colt, and not a stallion? Echoes of Zechariah 9:9-10 "Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cutoff, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth." But how many people remembered this passage? How many people instead, remember stories of the mighty military power of David, and cry out, "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" Hosanna means Save us! For even in their praises they were asking him to deliver them from what they thought was the worst oppression. They didn't know their true oppression lay in the evil of their own hearts...as they would show later that week.
He is deliberately showing he is the Messiah, but a Messiah without arms, without weapons, riding down the road of the Suffering Servant.
The people crowded and pushed each other, each trying to get a glimpse of the Son of David atop the colt. Shouting joyfully they stepped on each other's toes, no one minding because their minds were on one thing....at last, at last God has fulfilled his promise to us. Nothing else matters because the Messiah has come. Tomorrow Rome will see who is boss. Pilate will be run out of town, his fancy chariots breaking down under the immense speed as the Lion of Judah pursues him...to destroy him. And on to Rome!!! We'll show them. The center of the world will be the holy timeless city of Jerusalem, not the pagan city of Rome. Tomorrow he won't be sitting on a colt, but a white stallion. He will be clad in robes of scarlet...
The gods of Rome will be overthrown by the Son of God, the Messiah. The only true God will show the world who rules...
This is the one who healed you in the past as you lay dying from a serious illness. This is the one who brought you out of poverty and led you to a decent job. This is the one who transformed your life so completely your old comrades don't recognize you...but today, today you say, he let you down. A huge crisis came and went and things didn't go the way you prayed for them to go. Not everything you expected has happened. Yesterday you were waving palm branches, lifting your hands and praying, praising him. Today you cursed him, wondering where he is in all this grief and sorrow. Today you cried crucify him because he didn't live up to your expectations.
But tomorrow has come and all he's doing is throwing out moneychangers from the Temple. He is angry...showing power and the people hope he his beginning his takeover. But instead of heading to Herod's palace he returns to Bethany and the home of his friends.
The week progresses and nothing the people expected happens. And then he is arrested...
Philippians 2:5-11 "who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness...."
Today we want to celebrate...but we must realize in shadow of the palms lies a whip, a crown of thorns, three nails, and two beams. And if you found yourself in the procession crying Hosanna, you might not believe it now, but you will inevitably find yourself in the mob crying crucify him--in only five days!