Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Wrong Turn?

Today, for those of you who don't know, is Palm Sunday.

It's the day that Christians around the world celebrate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.

I tell you... what I wouldn't have given for a donkey myself, this morning. My journey to church was a little more of an obstacle course than usual; my usual 2.5 mile walk was almost blocked in two places by floodwater. Fortunately I was able to find my way through, precariously balancing on a grass verge, whilst looking out for inconsiderate 4x4 drivers many of who just plough through deep water with disregard for other road users/pedestrians. I think I must have been the last person to be able to get through on foot.... had I been any later, I'd have been cut off.

The Triumphal Entry marks a peak in Jesus' journey... at least in terms of public popularity. He'd just pulled off an amazing feat - bringing a man (Lazarus), back from the dead, who had been in the grave long enough for decomposition to set in. If you read the Gospels, that is when the authorities decided he was trouble and needed to be killed. Don't you think it is odd that it is when good people are at their most radical, that people conspire to remove them?

Anyway little of this seemed evident to the crowds on the day. They were full of religious fervour and zeal for the upcoming Jewish festival of Passover. Jesus, with Jerusalem set firmly in his sights... seems to pull an Obi-Wan Kenobi routine and acquires his transport for the day. He later apparently repeats the same trick in getting booked in to the Upper Room (note to self, Jesus is very handy for getting late bookings).

Then Jesus started to ride into town. Crowds who have either witnessed his miracles, heard his teachings, or merely caught wind of rumour about this mysterious teacher/prophet from Galilee... get worked up into a frenzy and start praising God. They start waving random bits of tree, or throw their clothes on the floor. It was one big party.

This was a glimpse of glory. Jesus is giving this people a veiled chance to understand who he really is. He isn't riding a warhorse, he is riding a donkey. He hasn't come to make war with Rome but to make God's peace with man. However people get caught up in events without fully understanding them. Jesus had experienced this before and was no stranger to it... but it never failed to move him:

"As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes."
Luke 19:41-42

And then it happens.

While the crowd goes wild, Jesus(from their perspective) makes a wrong turn... and the crowd hold their breath... stunned.

If Jesus is a potential Messiah... why is he heading towards the Temple? Why isn't he heading towards the Roman fortress? Perhaps he is going to say a prayer before driving out the Romans...

...but then the unthinkable occurs.

Jesus starts throwing his fellow Jews out of the Temple Courts. Furniture flies everywhere, doves disperse wildly into the sky and coins spill out onto the floor. Desperately, men dive to the floor to save their precious gold from being scattered.

Suddenly this man's agenda is not what they once thought. Their safe idea of what Messiah meant...has been turned on it's head.

Who is Jesus? Why is he really here?

We might know the answer to that question now. We may have a relationship with Jesus. However, I wonder... how many "wrong turns" has Jesus made in your life? How many times have you invited God to work in your life... only to fond he then has gone on to do something radically different to your expectations.

It can be hard sometimes... but this is at the very heart of the battle for the human soul. God is sovereign and part of having a relationship with him involves the hard choice of letting him do things that sometimes we will find uncomfortable. It is what in the final analysis defines who we are... do we obey our fallen nature and go our own way? Or do we accept that there is someone who is bigger than all of this... someone who cares for us deeply, wants the best for us despite ourselves... and knows what is best for us... even when it contradicts our own understanding of what we desire.

That is ultimately the BIG question you have to ask (not necessarily in words). In a smaller way we ask that question when we enter any meaningful relationship - is knowing and loving this person, worth the risk of anything they might do to hurt me?

With God it is different and a whole lot bigger. In him there is no wrong... and he can be trusted even when it hurts... especially when it hurts.

Are you willing to accept him?

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