Patching Cracks


April 24, 2019

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, the first day of was is often called Holy Week. In the account of Palm Sunday, Jesus is arriving in Jerusalem for passover. At this point in the story, he has amassed a large following and a huge reputation. As he approached the city, folks gathered and cut palm branches from the trees to lay in his path. They cheered and praised him as he went. In the ancient world, this was not an insignificant act. It was the sort of thing a city did when a conquering hero arrived. Often Roman generals would return from war on their war horses, parading captives and treasures gained as the spoils of war. Folks would celebrate because it was common for victors to share their spoils with cities. The ancient Jewish people were welcoming Jesus to the capital as a conquering hero. This is largely because they expected him to show up and beat up their Roman oppressors. This expectation was built into the faith of the Jewish people, and they were excited to be see it happen. Jesus’ response to the whole thing is impressive and a bit funny. He rode into town on the back of a baby donkey. This act flew in the face of their expectation and projected a bit of silliness rather than the regal show of power folks wanted from him. That humility was a bit of foreshadowing, as Jesus would be arrested, tried, and executed in the days that followed. Then he rose again on the third day after his burial. The interesting thing about Palm Sunday in the context of the story of Jesus and the human condition in general is that people looked to God and could only envision Him doing things their way. They thought Jesus would be a military leader. Even his disciples expected a grand show of power, despite the fact that Jesus had told them clearly what would happen. They couldn’t grasp the idea that God had his own plan and that God’s plan could be accomplished through humble surrender. In Christian theology, Jesus’ death on the cross involved him taking punishment for the sins that we commit so that the folks who follow him are forgiven for our wrongdoing. God accomplishes His great act of reconciling people with Himself, not by simply ignoring evil or by crushing us under an iron boot. Rather, He does it through love. Very little has changed in the 2 millennia since Palm Sunday. There are some who still hold steadfastly to the idea that God will save our world through the exercising of power. However, new laws or the 10 Commandments posted everywhere will not change people’s hearts. Lots of folks still hold onto the idea that everything will be ok if we just win enough cultural battles or legal decisions. Don’t get me wrong, those things have their place. However, real change is described in the book of Ezekiel when God tells us that: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” God’s love displayed through his willingness to pay any price to redeem his people is what changes lives. The celebration that took place on Palm Sunday was all about worldly power and the hope that enough of it can fix things. In reality, the week that followed demonstrates how God’s selfless love was what changes people. When we look at the world around us and desire for it to change for the better, the first step is to love and serve folks while pointing them to the truth. Christ modeled this throughout the Gospels and especially on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. This time of year, we need to focus on that truth.


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