JESUS LAST WEEK
It’s amazing how most of us love a parade! I remember back when I was just a 12 year old kid in Verdun, the Catholics church held their annual Corpus Christi parade.
All us protestants kids would run up and down the sidewalks, our face beat red from excitement-clapping our hands and waving as the cadet bugle band passed by-- To this day I still get goose bumps when I hear the Elgin marching Pipers through town.
When it comes to a parade people don’t change, back over 2000 years, Jesus is entering Jerusalem-What a glorious day for a Parade-- people are shouting and waving branches, children running back and forth helping lay shawls down on the ground for Jesus’ donkey to walk on. The air is filled with the promise-- full of expectation of what Jesus has come to do.
On that Palm Sunday the crowd sang for joy and shouted out the words of an O.T. Psalm
'Hosannah, LORD, Hosannah! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
What a glorious day!!
But the events of the week to come would really surprise these enthusiasts -- on the day of his entry into Jerusalem they were praising God for all that they had seen him do in Jesus – all his teaching and healing…
Yet they were not aware of the drama that was fast approaching.
Listen to Theologian Marcus Borg as he paints a picture of Jerusalem on that sunny day : It was the beginning of PASSOVER--
-And from the east, Jesus is entering riding a donkey, cheered by his peasant followers.. According to the prophet Zechariah, a king would be coming to Jerusalem humble and riding on a donkey. This king would banish war-no more spears-bows-- war horses. He would bring peace!
At the opposite of the city, came Pontius Pilate the Roman governor-- Jesus precession proclaimed the Kingdom of God—Pilate proclaimed the power of the empire.
—Close your eyes and --imagine the imperial parade’s arrival in the city. A display of imperial power,-- cavalry on horses,-- foot soldiers in leather armor,-- weapons, banners,-- gold eagles mounted on poles,-- sun glinting on metal and gold. Sounds of the marching of feet,-- --the clinking of bridles-- and the beating of drums. The emperor was not just the ruler of Rome, but the Son of God! They had come to keep law and order. The onlookers, some curious, some awed, some resentful.”
The confrontation between these two kingdoms was to continue through the Last Week of Jesus’ life. And we already know how the week ends. Jesus is executed by the powers who rule this world.
Here we find Jesus’ disciples in the midst of the action. They don’t have a clue as to what the following days will bring and they are worried.
They have noticed that Jesus has CHANGED DIRECTION, from PEACEFUL SPREADING GOD’S WORD TO ACTIVELY CONFRONTING the elders and priests.
The disciples are shocked by the turn of events.
We often get frustrated when someone we are working with deviates from the plan-- CHANGES DIRECTION. We see this all the time in politics, business and even “we” are often guilty. So we can understand how the disciples feel.
Why the change in plans—what has happened?
—well, Let’s go back to the beginning when Jesus first called his disciples Peter, James and John-we see them down by the sea shore fishing, mending their nets and along comes Jesus.
Perhaps they had seen him before or heard him speak, out of the blue, he invites them to come and follow him and he will make them fishers of men—you can help me spread the news of God’s love. They must have been puzzled and confused yet Jesus’ charisma won them over and they left their jobs and families to follow Jesus.
When they asked Jesus what to do, if the people didn’t listen, they were not to use any force –people don’t listen—then, shake the sand from your sandals and move on to another town.
There were times Jesus had run-ins with the local Pharisees and Priests from the local villages; then they would move on. Not anymore!
Now the plan was to CONFRONT the temple authorities in Jerusalem.—This could end up in their death and the disciples weren’t too happy -- they feared for their lives!
But, Jesus had given them fair warning.
We recall just before entering Jerusalem, Jesus tells them of a new strategy for his ministry.
He talks about his death. He tells his disciples openly and repeatedly that the son of man must suffer, die and on the third day rise again. Apparently this made no sense to the disciples.
The disciples were amazed-this not the trip they had in mind. I can hear Peter saying, “now look here Jesus, when I called you Messiah, this is not what I meant!
Being Messiah has nothing to do with suffering and death! It’s –about the promise of a new kingdom –a kingdom of peace and love-- a new king.”
During the first stage of his ministry Jesus was quite happy having his disciples tag along—lend a helping now and then.
Now he wants the disciples to step up and be partners and help him defeat the Temple elders and priest who have a strangle hold on the poor.
Confront the temple authorities! To the disciples this is quite a change!
Then Jesus goes on to spell out what they must do if they were to continue following him.
I’m sure you remember Jesus telling them three things they must do: 1-deny yourself, 2-take up the cross and 3-follow my example.
I think the disciple, like us, had trouble understanding what Jesus meant- but continued to followed Jesus into Jerusalem.
We know how they acted-they later fled the scene –abandoning Jesus to face the Roman machine by himself.
Let’s take a moment and look at these 3 stipulations Jesus has mentioned-and think about what they mean to us Christians today.
There have been many interpretation of what Jesus meant, these are my thoughts.
Jesus tells us “DENY YOURSELF”-give up our selfish desire for money, power and material things-we all know these worldly goodies can ruin our lives. Live as Jesus taught-caring for others- sharing all you have with the less fortunate, living a life of trust and faith in God.
He then says “TAKE UP THE CROSS. To the Apostle Paul “taking up the Cross was a journey in transformation.”
-- Today Christians recognize the Cross as a symbol for the “way” of entering a new life by the dying to our old life.
“FOLLOW” Jesus’ teachings— It seems we are to speak up against the powers that control our present society and change society to in-line with God’s Kingdom.
Finally, we are called to CONFRONT our present society that favours the rich,-- pays lip service to the poor,-- unemployed: and ignores the needs of the elderly. We are being asked to risk all we have for the Way of the cross in creating a new world order.
We all recognize that “FOLLOWING JESUS” can bring unexpected challenges. The Way of Jesus is demanding:-requires us to live simply--it means looking around to see how we can help others – be champions of Justice for all, -- refusing to meet violence with violence,-- confronting unjust laws and speak out for the Rights of all citizens.
It’s quite a list and it can mean radical changes in our life style.
The GOOD NEWS we have some help. We are not ALONE!!
Somewhere in the depth of our very being DWELLS THE LIVING GOD-- converting our weakness to strength—our fears to courage and our doubt to belief.
Easter, spring and Jesus’ teachings are all about rebirth—the renewal of spirit—and transformation.
Let us journey on the “WAY OF THE CROSS” together!