Some thoughts from the sermon part II: How they saw the Truimphal Entry

This is the second posting that’s a portion of the sermon I’ve got the honor of delivering to Fellowship Church in about a week.    If you live in Massachusetts, I hope you’ll stop in.  If you don’t, I hope you’ll consider viewing the service online.  (Fellowshipholden.com)

Rather than posting the whole text of what I’m planning to say in one big entry, I’ve decided to carve it up this time around.  If you read it, I hope you’ll leave a comment or two.  Perhaps there’s a different way of looking at these issues, or some more thoughts you have on the topic.

The Triumphal Entry
7When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Hosanna![a]”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
10″Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
11Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple.

The passage above is less than 100 words. And yet, we could talk for hours about the layers of significance to it all…

The first thing that it’s easy for us to miss but that all present would have been clear on is that Jesus entry is very much in the manner of a conquering war hero. When people at that time would return home victoriously from war, the armies would be met by an outpouring of people from the city.

The branches that they waved weren’t random. They were the symbol of the Jewish fighters who had tried and failed to rebell from Rome. The placing of the people’s outer clothing on the colt and on the road before Jesus was a way to express submission to the rider. In effect, these people’s actions were saying

We remember our Jewish brothers who fought with their fists to be free of Rome. And we sumbit ourselves to you, Jesus. Because expect you to continue in that same veign.”

One of the only things missing from Jesus mock-victorious war party was the prisoners of war. The conquered people would come back to the conquerers city in chains, so that the public execution of their enemies could be a great spectacle.

Now, the people who were watching Jesus had a decision to make. They had to decide: Would they worship their expectations? Or would they worship Jesus?

If they worshipped their expectations, they would say,“Jesus got it wrong. He forget the prisoners.”

Or perhaps they would even say “Jesus has come here to take prisoners. He’s coming here, and now, into the city, to take on the Romans. He’s going to take them on and and beat them at their own game.”

If you read the Old Testament, you read all these prophecies about Jesus. By the time Jesus came around, these prophecies increasingly came to be understood in a certain way. They had this idea that the messiah would be this warrior, that he’d be this political ruler. This idea, it’s not in the scriptures themselves. It’s in their expectations.

Even Jesus’ timing could be looked at to confirm this perspective. He came at the Passover. There are many things that can be said about the passover. One of them is this:

Once God’s chosen people were ruled over by the Egyptians. When God decided it was time to set them free, the ruler of the Egyptians wasn’t on board with this plan. God set the Egyptians free from this superpower by striking down the first born child of every Egyptian.

God told his people to remember that day by holding a feast each year. In that feast a perfect lamb was to be chosen and sacrificed for the sins of the people.

And so if I was a Jewish guy in Jerusalem, it would be easy for me to focus on this. I might notice that God’s chosen people are once again ruled over by a superpower. I might notice that The Romans aren’t on board with setting us free. I might think: here comes Jesus. And you Romans, you better get ready to be smited.

It’s not insignificant that the scripture tells us that the people watching called him son of David. David was a political figure and a war leader out of there past. Centuries before, David’s grandson Absolom had risen up against David. David had fled Jerusalem and Absolum had put together a tremendous force to defeat his father. Though David eventually regained his throne, things were never the same for him. Absolom died in the fighting, and scripture describes how this event rocked David so utterly that the soldiers nearly left him: they felt like David cared more for the son who tried to overthrow him than the soldiers who stood by his side.

Jesus was aware of this. He used this knowledge. He entered Jerusalem from the same path that David had retreated from down, all those centuries before. And the place that he picked up the donkey was in fact very near to the place that David was given a donkey on his way out of the city. Jesus came in this way to say “I am back.”

When people saw how Jesus returned like David, they thought that they knew where the whole thing was headed.  They thought they knew what he was doing and why.  They thought that if the scenario began a certain way, it had to end in that same way. They expected him to confirm the things they thought that they already knew.  Once the wind started blowing in a certain direction, they thought they knew what the weather was going to be like.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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