Sunday, March 24, 2013

Missing The Moment

(The following is a piece I wrote for Palm Sunday in 2010)

“The people wanted Jesus to be a revolutionary. He was-- but not to overthrow the Roman government. Jesus was to overthrow the kingdom of darkness!”
-Pastor Patrick J. Walker

Every now and then, we experience moments of clarity. Sometimes those moments explain new things to us, revealing knowledge that had been previously hidden. At other times, a moment of clarity sheds new light on an old topic. The quote above, taken from today's sermon entitled “When Stones Speak” helped me appreciate something I already knew but in a concise and crisp statement with penetrating power. I was inspired to re-examine the events of the Triumphal Entry.

Putting on a historian's hat, we will discover that there was not one, but two “triumphal” processions on the same day. The Roman governor, Pontiffs Pilate, had his official residence in Caesarea which was about a day's journey north of Jerusalem. Knowing that the nationalistic pride of the Jews would be a fever-pitch during the Passover Feast, Pilate knew he had to make the presence of Rome felt that week. Scholars such as Mark Borg and John D. Crossan have put together a very strong case that Pilate would have come riding into Jerusalem from the West at the Gennat Gate.

Given the purpose of his arrival, it's not hard to imagine what that entrance looked like. Nothing was more important to the Romans than displaying their empire's glory. No doubt, Pilate was elevated on some sort of platform above the heads of all that would have seen him. The horses were elegant, the soldiers were fierce with their shields gleaming in the sun. They most likely made their way to the Antonia Fortress with all the pomp and circumstance, pride and power that would rival any military parade of our modern era.

Think of the contrasts. Jesus made His entrance from Bethany in the east via the Golden Gate. Instead of a horse, our King rides on donkey- a borrowed one. No leather for a saddle, He rides on the robes of His disciples. Not elevated above those who sang songs for His sake, He is eye to eye with them. No armor, shields, or swords in the hands of His followers- only palm branches waving wildly.

The crowds sang their songs and laid down their cloaks... but they missed the moment. The revolutionary they wanted did not exist. But the revolutionary they NEEDED was in their midst. He was not aiming at Pilate's seat or the throne of Emperor Tiberius who ruled Rome at that time. No, these men were under no threat from Jesus for in fact, He came to save men like them from a tyranny greater than any Caesar: the tyranny of the Kingdom of Darkness! Hundreds of millions waved palm branches today- but how many truly know Christ and have their sins forgiven, are born from above and walking in the newness of life? If you don't know Him, you too, have missed the moment.

At His entry, armed only with justice and dripping with mercy, the humble Son of God was redefining what it meant to rule and what a kingdom really was. Jesus had set His face to Jerusalem so that even when the crowds disowned Him, He fought on to Friday. His final triumph was at the intersection of Holiness and Grace. That intersection is the cross itself for where man lacked the holiness required to please Him, God gave grace.

Jesus left Jerusalem the way He came in: completely confounding the ways of this world and forever challenging our views of winning and losing. His death redefined victory, not as something where one takes all but where one gives all. For the Christian, the Triumphal Entry of Christ illustrates how radically different our lives ought to look when compared with the world around us. What a challenge- what a moment! 

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