Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 29, 2015

the opening paragraph

This year you have joined us on a journey through scripture focused on the premise that its characters lives and stories are really our own.  They are us, and their thrilling adventures and epic failures are also very much ours.  Nowhere is this any truer than in the story of the week leading up to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Sadly, however, we rarely step into the story in a real and genuine way – a way which places us elbow-to-elbow with the crowd lining the streets of Jerusalem, milling amongst the pilgrims at the temple, walking with the disciples each morning and evening between Bethany and Jerusalem, sitting at the foot of Jesus as He teaches, reclining at the table during his anonymous anointing or the sacred Seder, praying (sleeping) in the garden, shouting at His trials, hiding along the cross road, weeping at a safe distance from the foot of the cross, stunned in the silence of a Sabbath unlike any other, racing to the empty tomb.  This week, we hope to visit those places and look into those faces and see our own reflection.  The crowds, the disciples, the servants, the hypocrites, the traitors, the doubters, the soldiers, the followers … they are us.

As our story begins, we hear the din of the capital city at the onset of Passover.  It must have been a sight to see.  Pilgrims from far and wide descend on Jerusalem for the central festival and celebration of the Jewish people.  It gets no bigger than this.  It’s Times Square on December 31st, and Taylor Swift is coming to perform! — Okay, please forgive the incredibly poor reference, but maybe it can do some good to take the flannel graph scene down and see it in a context we can relate to.  As people mill around near the city center to check in at the inn, buy their Passover lamb or just be where the action is, news of Jesus’ visit begins to spread.  The Messiah is coming, and the anticipation is growing!  Their mighty deliverer is coming, and they are more than ready!  The smell of justice and freedom is in the air, and it’s being circulated by broken-off palm branches.

There is no doubt as to the expectations of the gathering crowd.  Jesus was their conquering king, and the time was almost here for their forceful liberation from their current oppression.  They would no longer be slaves to Rome’s master.  Jesus is coming and the chants of “Save us, now!” will soon be in full throat.

The din begins to swell as the very first person at the gates to the city catches a glimpse of Jesus at yet a far off distance and shouts the news to all who have ears to hear.  Word spreads as Jesus draws closer.   The late-comers, those who are joining for the spectacle more than belief, now pour out into the streets and take their places along the parade route.

Jesus approaches the gate.  The shouts of “Hosanna!” — “Save us, now!” — are reaching their peak of fervor.  This is the beautiful crescendo that precedes the beautiful mess.  This is the height of acceptance and adulation that precedes the brutal discovery that Jesus is not at all who they thought He was.  His motives were not theirs.  The freedom He desired for them was from an oppression altogether different from the one they had on their minds and lips.  “Save us now, Jesus!  We are ready to fall in behind your war-horse and march directly to the seat of power!”

As I close my eyes and attempt to insert myself into the crowd, I wonder what was happening as Jesus actually arrived and proceeded through the streets of the city.  Did people notice the small donkey?  Did it look odd?  Were there some who stopped shouting and waving their branches long enough to exchange confused glances?  We notice clearly Jesus’ intentional choice of an undersized and humble beast of burden.  We see clearly its contradiction from the way the crowd expected Jesus to arrive.  But did they?  Were the seeds of disappointment and rejection planted this day, or did the crowd remain raucous and eventually disperse feeling hopeful and expectant for what was to come?  Was Jesus smiling and waving as He rode along?  What did He see in the faces (and through to the hearts) of those He made eye contact with that day?  I think we can be quick to see this day in a very narrow and shallow way.  I believe it is good to pause and consider, to close our eyes and place ourselves amid the crowd.  The crowd is us — it’s our neighbors, our co-workers, our family, people we pass in the aisles at the market, those we sit next to in church or at the game.

This scene is the opening paragraph of the epic tale of redemption.  One part of one day which sets in motion God’s plan to win us back.  Sin has taken us from Him and He wants us back … at the ultimate cost of the very life of his only Son.

We have approached and passed through the gate as He did.  Every step He takes from this point forward is one that has been authored to win us back.  We look back at this particular point in human history and see everything through the lens of resurrection.  It is right, and it is good to do that.  Will you (now, in this moment) make a choice to walk forward through the story, suppressing your knowledge of its final sentences?  Journey through this week with us as if you were standing in the crowd today.  Tomorrow’s fig tree and temple tables belong to tomorrow.  Stay present in today.



  1. Date: Sun, 29 Mar 2015 03:49:46 +0000 To:

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: