April 14, 2014
Reblogged from: I'm Just Saying
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Jesus has entered into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey announcing his messiahship in the heart of where God’s people are gathered. The crowd is shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” Depending on which Gospel you read, the crowd is either waving palms or spreading out their cloaks; either way it is a symbol of the crowd’s desire to make Jesus king. The Pharisees speak out in disgust, and Rome stands watchfully silent. The revolution is beginning! It sounds too good to be true . . . because it is.
Palm Sunday (or “Cloak in the Road” Sunday as the palms are never mentioned in the Gospel of Luke) is a story heavy with tragic and painfully self-reflecting irony. The crowd is shouting, “Blessed is the king,” and the Pharisees reply, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” Jesus answers, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” These shouting rocks, or as I like to call it, “Jesus’ first rock song,” is a prophetic slam toward the Pharisees, remembering Habakkuk 2:9-11, which reads,
“Alas for you who get evil gain for your houses, setting your nest on high to be safe from the reach of harm! You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many people; you have forfeited your life. The very stones will cry out from the wall, and the plaster will respond from the woodwork.”
These singing rocks (I like to think of them as Jesus’ first rock song) on the last Sunday in Lent also remind us of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness on the first Sunday in Lent. The devil says, “I know you must be hungry. Turn these stones into bread.” Jesus replied, “These stones aren’t meant for my nourishment, they are meant to sing praises to God. Humanity does not live by bread alone.” Then the devil showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world, and said, “If you bow down and worship me, I will give all of this to you.” When Jesus was looking at all of the kingdoms of the world he heard the crowd cheering, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” After resisting a second temptation, the devil brings Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple saying, “Throw yourself down for God will raise you up on eagle’s wings and bare you on the breath of dawn.” Jesus replied, “It is not I who will be leaving the temple because, if we’re done here, I’m headed to the temple to drive out the money changers and the thieves who have turned my father’s house into nothing more than a department store.” So, the devil left for an opportune moment.
Have you ever woken up on Easter Sunday morning to that huge, chocolate bunny in your basket? You unwrap the paper and bite into the ears and discover that 95% of the bunny is actually air. Cloak in the Road Sunday is like that bunny in the sense that 95% of what the crowd is saying is nothing but air. They shout, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Have you ever wondered why the crowd was singing Jesus’ praises one day and then shouting “Crucify him” just days later? Jesus did not fit their definition of Messiah. Jesus did no deliver on the promises they thought he should have kept. Instead of allowing Jesus to be the definition of Messiah, they wanted Jesus to fit their definition. Jesus was supposed to be king and kick Rome out and establish the theocratic kingdom of old. Instead he got arrested and beaten and mocked. So the crowd turned, and if we are being honest, we do to. Sometimes we get angry with God when our prayers are left unanswered, even if our prayers are selfish. We question whether God is even there when our desires are unmet, even if those desires are misguided. Instead of saying, “Here I am Lord, send me.” We say, “Come to me, Lord, because I like where I am.”
Palm Sunday is a reminder of Jesus’ temptation, it is a mirror showing us the tragic reflection of human brokenness, and it is all the evidence that Pilate needs in order to sentence Jesus to death. Jesus stands before the crowd and Pilate cannot find anything wrong with him . . . Don’t for a moment think that Pilate is innocent. He’s a politician, and politicians are not so easily swayed by a crowd. Jesus is Pilate’s political puppet. The crowd brings Jesus to Pilate saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is Messiah, a King.” Pilate says to Jesus, “Are you a king?” Jesus says, “You say so.” Pilate answers, “I find nothing against him.” The charge that Jesus is perverting the nation is not enough for Pilate. The charge of insurrection against the government is not enough. Pilate is going for the throat. In the Gospel of John Pilate says over and over again that he finds no charge against Jesus, and the crowd is whipped into a frenzy shouting “Crucify him!” Pilate says, “Shall I crucify your king?” The crowd shouts, “We have no king but Caesar,” to which Pilate answers, “Thank you. That’s what I was looking for. I can’t wait to tell Caesar that on a high holy Jewish day I convinced the Jewish religious elite to denounce their faith and claim that Caesar is their king. Take Jesus away and crucify him. He has served my purpose.”
The bridge of “Bargain,” by The Who says, “I sit looking round, I look at my face in the mirror. I know I’m worth nothing without you.” So far this sounds like devotion. “In life, one and one don’t make two, one and one make one.” Even better, but then it goes on to say, “I’m looking for that free ride to me, I’m looking for you.” And that’s what the crowd was really shouting on that day when Jesus entered into Jerusalem—“We are looking for the easy road to ourselves.” The good news is that Jesus knows this about us, and died for us anyway. Jesus knows and still chooses to love us. Yes, Jesus is our judge, but the good news is that Jesus is also the one who died for us while we were yet sinners, proving God’s love for us. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.