Friday, March 30, 2007

Jesus. What a Man!



Amidst the hoopla of riding on a donkey toward Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, Jesus rains on his own parade.

With Zechariah 9:9 as a backdrop, the people are yelling accolades to their humble king, blessing him and welcoming him into the "city of peace." According to Matthew and Mark, the people are cutting branches from trees and carpeting the dusty trail. John tells us that they were palm branches. Cloaks are strewn on the road as well. Jesus is receiving a royal welcome.

This is a happy, if not anxious moment for the jazzed up people. This king they imagine is going to do something amazing, something traumatic, something tremendous--what with all his powers. Look out, Roman garrison, Jesus is coming. Look out, corrupt Jewish leaders, the Righteous One is here. It's "pay back" time. Hosanna and hallelujah!

At the crest of the Mount, the panoramic view of Jerusalem fills Jesus' vision. There the "city of peace," tense with conflict and hope, smothered in prayers and blood, waits. The Temple mount captures the eyes of all. When Messiah comes, he comes as king to the Temple.

Jesus bursts into loud, wailing sobs. He is doubled over in grief. Underneath the hosannas, he hears "Spill the blood of the godless Roman swine!" He doesn't see a Temple; he sees a hideout for bandits. He doesn't see a place of prayer for all nations; he sees a money-making racket for Jews. He doesn't see a city of peace; he "sees" dead women and children strewn in the bloody streets like palm branches, like cast off clothing. So, he cries.

He also speaks. He speaks as a heart-broken prophet. He is old Jeremiah all over again. He cries because everything and everyone is so wrong. He's not coming to make Rome die; he's coming to die at the hands of Rome. He's not coming to liberate the city of peace; he's coming to declare its imminent and devastating end.

How does Jesus feel about that? What is God's heart like when he is compelled to speak judgement? For all its horror, these words of judgement do not contain any nuance of revenge. There is no hint of glee, no pay back. Only hot tear drops and deep grief. I repudiate Christians who paint a picture of God rubbing his hands together in joy and laughing as sinners go to hell, getting what they deserve. That is not the God of the Bible. Even as God unleashed the flood of Genesis 6, we read of a God deeply pained at the prospect. Jesus is that same God sitting on a donkey and crying.

Believe me, his humble donkey ride and massive cries are not a Trojan Horse act to fool Rome and Jerusalem. He's not going to suddenly enter a phone booth and come out SuperJew. He is going to walk very alone through the dark valley of the shadow of death. His weapon of choice is to receive a terrorist's death on a cross.

Triumphal or tearful? What kind of entry was it...for Jesus?

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10 Comments:

At 4/02/2007 9:32 AM, Blogger Adam Gonnerman said...

FANTASTIC POST!!! I tried to touch on this topic several weeks ago on my blog, under the heading "As A Hen Gathers Her Brood...." I didn't do it the justice you did.

 
At 4/02/2007 12:41 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Adam,
I read your post "As a Hen..." It was good and poignant--showing the heart of the Father and the Son. I appreciate your exurberant affirmation :) Blessings on you this Holy Week.

 
At 4/04/2007 5:29 AM, Blogger Greg said...

John
Thanks for these thoughts. Perhaps, the entry is both - triumphal and tearful, although the triumph is accomplished in mysterious ways that go far beyond some notions of a triumphalism without tears today.
Greg

 
At 4/04/2007 6:51 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Greg,
I agree with you---it's probably both. I like the wording "triumphalism without tears." What a sad condition for the people of God. Thanks for commenting.

 
At 4/04/2007 5:24 PM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

John, I so much agree with the portrait of Jesus you paint here, and of God. I cannot believe my ears at the god some see. Not the god of the Bible. We need to look at Jesus more to see God and this post helps us see the real Jesus alot better. I need more of that! Thanks.

 
At 4/05/2007 5:54 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Ted,
I join you in your confession. To get an accurate picture of God we need to go first to the Cross. God bless you!

 
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