We emphasize Jesus’ final week on earth, the beginning of which is heralded by Palm Sunday, a time of great celebration before the typically dour Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Cultivate joy as we welcome Jesus through Jerusalem’s gate (and ultimately into your heart).
Palm Sunday marks the commemoration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into the fortified city of Jerusalem. Jesus knew that his entrance would be the last time entering the capital before his arrest and crucifixion. Jesus’ highly public entrance into Jerusalem encouraged his supporters, who recognized in Jesus a man of promise and hope. The word on the street was that the crowds who adored Jesus knew him as the populist prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. Perhaps he was even the Messiah!
Neither the Jewish nor the Roman authorities looked favorably upon the publicity and support Jesus garnered. From their perspective, the sentiments from the Jerusalem crowds could lead to riots against the authorities and perhaps a revolution overthrowing the Roman occupiers. Jesus’ supporters could have destabilized the political situation and prompted a military intervention from the Romans (which eventually happened just a few decades after Jesus’ death).
The biblical text does not suggest that Jesus’ actions were designed to cause political instability. Yet, it’s all about perception. And with the Romans watching, even something as grand as a parade led by a man on a donkey has dire implications and ramifications. What if Jesus had leveraged his popularity to initiate insurrection against either the Jewish priestly oligarchy, the Romans, or both? That scenario never transpired, because Jesus was focused on spiritual issues rather than the ever-changing political landscape. Not at all a typical insurrectionist leader, Jesus instead presented himself as the spiritual King of the Jews.
It is likely that some folks felt betrayed that Jesus didn’t leverage his power and authority for more immediate political changes. Perhaps this is why the crowds later seemed to have abandoned Jesus during his trial and execution. Initially armed with high-hopes, those who shouted praises during Jesus’ triumphal entry later cried for his execution. What a shame! Well, it’s not a shame that Jesus didn’t lead a revolt but it is unfortunate that public opinion was so focused on outward things. Once it was clear that Jesus would not fulfill their aspirations they abandoned him and moved on to other things.
Fast-forward nearly two-thousand years and Jesus continues to make entrances, only this time into peoples’ hearts. We celebrate with vociferous “Amens!” the indwelling Jesus, the friend of all spiritually-awakened individuals who’ve invited him in. Today, it’s not about a literal, triumphal entry through a city gate as much as it is a spiritual entry into the lives of those who embrace God’s love and truth. Are you on such a spiritual journey? Can you perceive the value of understanding it in this way? Is God the guiding force in your life and are you joyful about your faith? Too many questions? Perhaps, but the point is to get you to the place where you can follow God enthusiastically and not out of habit, dread, coercion, etc. Then as now, there’s nothing quite like a true believer who thinks and acts in the way of the Lord.
As you prepare for Easter, yearn for God’s Spirit to fill you with meaning and hope. Don’t let Lent be in vain. Take the lessons and strength you’ve gained and play it forward. We must be especially careful not to let the momentum collapse after Easter. The strong tendency is for people to drop off and drop out after the high holy day next Sunday. Don’t let that happen to you. Stay-tuned and remain alert and joyous as you share your faith. I know it’s beginning to sound like a mantra, but the Renew ministry needs you and recall that God + you = Renew. Our capital campaign titled We Can Do IT! is well underway and yet we still have much funds to raise. The renewal & restoration of our fellowship hall depends on your continued giving. The neatest thing about this is the matching program wherein St. John will match your contribution dollar-for-dollar up to a certain amount.
Anyway, join the hearty party of faith and don’t give-up. We need you to be that person whom God is renewing. Do I hear an “Amen!” out there?