This coming Sunday, we will gather together in our Table Groups to mark as a family of faith the coming of Palm Sunday, and with it, the beginning of "Holy Week"; the final week of Lent, and the near arrival of Good Friday and Easter!
As a child growing up in the church, I always loved Palm Sunday: The palm fronds, the time of year - humming with the promise of Spring - the upbeat feeling of the TRIUMPHAL entry. It's a wonderful story which, not inconsequentially for a young man, communicates pretty well on a flannel-graph. Things are going well, it would seem; Jesus is coming to town, and people throw a party. Jesus comes to Jerusalem, and he is welcomed as a King. For all the teachings and miracles and proclamations of hope and salvation that have led us to this point, Jesus is finally getting his due, it would appear. But, there’s a problem. In the middle of the party, Luke tells us, Jesus stops... and weeps.
"And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” ( Luke 19:41-44 )
The trouble is, for all the celebration and fanfare, Jesus knows that these people of Jerusalem were not so much worshipping HIM, as their own, misplaced hopes an expectations FOR him. And eventually, he knew that this false worship would lead, not only to his own death, but to the destruction of Jerusalem itself.
But we still do this, don't we? In our world today, there is a strong tendency to imagine and relate to Jesus as the Jesus we would LIKE him to be: a Jesus that fits us as we are, who lines up with our hopes and expectations for Him. Jesus stands as an immovably significant figure at the center of human history and at the center of scripture; as such, we can’t ignore him. We can’t fail to recognize him in some manner. But, whereas the REAL Jesus can tend to be a little challenging for us from time to time; saying difficult things, overturning our idols and upsetting our sense of the status quo, our personal PARODIES, or projections, of Jesus fit us right where we are. That’s why we like them. It’s like Jesus, the warm blanket.
We are a people created for worship. But in the context of our own sinfulness and the broken world in which we live, it is easy for that worship to become misdirected; even as followers of Jesus! Every day we are faced with the temptation to worship a version of Jesus that we have – often unknowingly – crafted in our own image, overlooking or simply ignoring the more troubling or inconvenient aspects of His nature and teaching. But what the tears of Jesus reveal to us is that this is dangerous, because as we allow ourselves to be captivated by our own parodies of Jesus, we run the risk of missing the real thing, and all the fullness of life that he actually invites us into. In the end, we find that genuine worship, and genuine, Christian hope, must be a reflection of the genuine Jesus. Anything other can only ever be a religious placebo, at best, and a vaguely Jesus-shaped idol of our own devising, at worst.
As we together prepare to undertake the journey of this Holy Week - Palm Sunday, Good Friday and, ultimately Easter - may we endeavor to fix our eyes upon Jesus himself: the eternal, inspiring Word of our very existence; the fully human self-communication of God to a lost and wandering humanity; the self-giving, broken, crucified Lord, given for our atonement; the risen, victorious King, claiming for us eternal life.
What a Savior! What a gift! What Good News! Hosanna in the highest!
By His Grace,