Journey to the cross- beyond asking

When they had come near Jerusalem reaching the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey, untie it and bring it to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And they will send the animal immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; bringing the donkey and putting their cloaks on it like a saddle. Jesus rode the donkey towards Jerusalem.  A very large crowd, coming to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen. (Luke 19) The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David”. (Mark 11) Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel. (John 12) Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”  

Adapted from Matthew 21 with verses from Mark 11, Luke 19 and John 12.
Who is this Jesus?  Who is this Jesus?  What do you want from him?   The Passover Pilgrims lining the narrow road from the Mount of Olives up towards the Temple Mount want something from Jesus.  Those cheering crowds, laying their coats out as a kind of red carpet for Jesus’s donkey to walk across, waving palm branches like liturgical foam fingers, and shouting cheers like righteous cheerleaders all wanted something from Jesus. What is it that you want from Jesus?

Their cheer arose “Hosanna” which means “Save us we pray.  Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary says Hosanna “apparently became a liturgical cry for divine mercy.”

What do they want from Jesus?  Some come shouting for a king.  They want Jesus to loft the Hail Mary pass upsetting of the ancient political order.   Listen to their exclamation, “Save-us- Son of David-we-pray! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David.   Save-us- (the one who comes in the name of the Lord) we pray!  The King of Israel.”   Now some fearing the political repercussions of angering Rome, tell Jesus to make his disciples stop cheering.  (Luke 19:39) Tiberius was Caesar- the earthly king.  Pilate and Herod were local vassals of Tiberius.  Rome did not tolerate free speech or anti-establishment rallies.

What do they want from Jesus?  Some hearing of Jesus’ great deeds of power long for a blessing.  They line up to be fed.   Hear the cry: “Son of David, have mercy on me, I want to see. Lord heal my daughter.  Hosanna, cast out that evil spirit.  Break the bread again feeding this 5,000. Lord my heart is breaking. Jesus, calm my fears- bid my sorrows cease.”

What do you want from Jesus?  

Do we pray, “Hosanna, Come Prince of Peace calm the storm, free me from my stressors?

Do we ask, “Hosanna, Lord, heal me”?

Do we cheer, “King of Kings, come be a political powerhouse, re-establish Christendom.”?

Do we crave, “Righteous Judge cast down my enemies”?

Do we shout out, “Hosanna come and prop up our agenda”?

Do we beg, “Come Lord overlook my sins! We want to sin six days and then find forgiveness?”

Do we waive our claim ticket and shout “Come Crucified Lord, give me my ticket to Heaven?”

Today with the ancient crowds we all press in on Jesus shouting “Hosanna- save us- bless us”, by Friday we will shout “crucify him!”   Amid the cheering throng, Jesus astride that little donkey looked toward the Temple and Palace, he wept.  Jesus wept over the city. Even as the crowds cheered for a king, Jesus lamented, “If you, even you, had only recognized the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:41).

 

We press in on Jesus waving our claim tickets in the air like angry Black Friday shoppers trying to get the last of the 70dollar big screen TVs.   We want something from Jesus.  We want Jesus to do something for us. We want a Jesus voucher. We come claiming something from Jesus.  We quote Jesus to prove our points.  We seek to use Jesus to get what we long for.  Our requests arise along the lines of how we read Jesus, and we reread the words of Jesus that reinforce our preconceived notions.  We cheer and plead: “Jesus make this. Jesus give us.  Jesus love me. Jesus smite them.  Jesus bless me.  Jesus save me. Jesus judge them.  Jesus forgive me.”

 

When will we stop shouting “Save us we pray” and whisper “Here I am Lord Jesus use me?

When will we pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done?”

When will we ask God to use us to bring about faith, hope and love “on earth as in heaven”?

When will our prayer become Jesus’ Gethsemane Prayer, “Lord not my will but Yours be done?

When will we stop asking and start serving?

How do we come along side our Lord, like Simon of Cyrene, and help Christ carry the cross?

 

What do you want from Jesus?

Will you drop the claim ticket in your hand and take up your cross?

 

Palm Sunday comes as a pivot, turning our heads away from our shallow self-interest and towards Jesus’ cross.  Today begins with happy crowds praising Christ.   By Friday, we will scream “crucify him”.   So many of us church folk wants nothing but Easter.  We do not venture near the cross.  And yet on the cross our Crucified Lord transforms our hateful sinfulness into redemption, hope, and love.  We who only seek Easter find a hollower, weaker, and smaller faith.  Only a journey through the cross brings us into Easter’s abounding victory over hopelessness, sinfulness, and death.

 

There is a deep beauty in the cross reserved for those who stop asking for themselves and start living for God and others. This morning I pondered the cross and wrote this poem.

 

Christ hangs with the condemned

Hope hangs dying

The crowd lying

Disciples denying

His mother crying  

Perfect Love suffering

Our faith forgotten

Our way lost

God’s mercy mocked

The Truth taunted

The Scared scorned

Our Redeemer Rejected

 

Bleeding

Broken

Dying

God!

Crucified!

 

What stirs such hate?

Preaching 

Feeding

Touching untouchables

Welcoming

Forgiving

Loving

 

Jesus moves parched lips

Praying 

“Father, forgive them, they do not know”

Forgive these?

How can this be?

Lord please!

No, No, No, Heaven and Hell, No

They do know!

They never forgive

They forever stone

They always judge

They easily justify

They quickly vilify

They cleverly deny

They do know

 

Oh Sacred Head, now wounded, by love suspended, on our unholy tree

Turn your gaze away from me

“Seventy times seven”

“On earth, as in heaven”

“Be on your guard against unholy leaven”  

“Unless you forgive”

“take up your cross and live”

“Love your neighbor and your enemy”

Lord, Your words they pierce me!

 

For I deny

With judging lips, I lie

The other sinners, I vilify

Myself alone do I justify

In un-forgiveness, I abide

Oh, Lord it is I!

For even me you died

 

Merciful God does your love endure forever?

Oh Perfect Love

Lavished on our petulant hate

Arise

Forgive

Restore

Redeem

Renew

Recast

Recreate

Revive

Love Crucified

Ever Forgiving 

Be born again in me!

For only through Your Cross do we see.   

 

 

John Wesley crafted a Covenant Prayer to be prayed on New Year’s Day, but perhaps Holy week is a soberer season.  It is not a cheer for Jesus to bless us, save, or give us anything.  It is not a prayer asking God to uphold us.  No, it challenges our consumer-infected faith calling us to stop asking and start serving.

 

Let me be your servant, under your command.

I will no longer be my own.

I will give up myself to your will in all things.

Lord, make me what you will.

I put myself fully into your hands:

put me to doing, put me to suffering,

 let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,

let me be full, let me be empty,   

let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and with a willing heart give it all to your pleasure and disposal. Amen.

 

This is strange Suffering Servant language for people accustomed to cheap grace and self-serving faith  The unfamiliar Liturgy continues, trampling over our Christian consumerism, challenging us to stop asking God to bless us and start seeking Divine courage to do God’s will.   

 

“Christ will be the Savior of none but his servants.

Jesus is the source of all salvation to those who obey.

Christ will have no servants except by consent;

Christ will not accept anything except full consent to all that he requires.

Christ will be all in all, or Christ will be nothing.”

 

Wesley’s Covenant Prayer is so antithetical for our Easy-On-The-Obligation Christianity.  Indeed, perhaps Jesus gives greater mercy than that?  I hope so, but when do we grow up as Christians and stop drinking up easy grace and take Jesus’ cup?  When do we pray Jesus’ Gethsemane Prayer “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”  Matthew 26:39

 

What do you want from Jesus?  Do we use Jesus?  Do we follow Jesus only to get grace, blessing or something else in return?  Must Jesus again journey to the cross alone? Will we always sleep in the garden?  Will we allow God’s Perfect Love to drink the bitter cup alone?  When will we stop asking for blessings and start asking God to use us?

 

I hear Jesus calling over our shouts for more,  “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their soul? (Mark 8:34-37).

 

Oh, Crucified Christ

Come and save us from always asking for more

Forgive us

Heal us

Use us!

Amen.

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