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?
Labels: Holy Week