This reflection is excerpted from a sermon on Mark 11:1-11. As you prepare for Palm Sunday, you might also appreciate this prayer of confession and offertory prayer. For more Lent and Easter worship material, check the “Lent/Easter” category on the right side bar or go to the Index and scroll down to “The Year” section.
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For the Palm Sunday crowd, I think that Jesus was a convenient person on whom to pin their hopes. A learned Jewish teacher, said to have performed miracles, riding into the holy city on a donkey colt. It must be him!
“Him” being . . . whoever they were wanting him to be. And they took his silence as consent. Because he did not tell them otherwise, they clung dearly to their ideas of how and when and why Jesus would save them. In their own minds, the people in the crowd made Jesus into the savior they most desired.
Now, if you know anything about history, then you know that the original Palm Sunday crowd is not the only group of people guilty of taking advantage of Jesus. From Constantine to the Crusaders to Nazis to the Klu Klux Klan to Fred Phelps and his “church.” It is so easy for people to use Jesus as a rallying cry for their own ideals and causes.
“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Of course, there are examples less drastic than Hitler. A perusal of the religious bookstore will prove my point. Now, I am sure that some of these books contain good theology. I’m also sure some of them don’t. Still, it is instructive to consider the range of titles available on Amazon:
Jesus CEO; Jesus, Entrepreneur; Jesus, MD; Jesus, Life Coach; Rabbi Jesus; Jesus the Pastor; Jesus . . . A Religious Revolutionary; Jesus, the Greatest Therapist who Ever Lived; The Laughing Jesus; Jesus Mean and Wild; Jesus in Blue Jeans; My Best Friend, Jesus; Jesus Christ, Superstar; The Yoga of Jesus; The Politics of Jesus.
“Save us, we beseech you! O please, please, give us success!”
We are desperate for salvation. When a savior comes along, our tendency is to mold that savior, in our own minds, into whatever we think we need from a savior.
It is easy to follow Jesus when we simply make Jesus into the person we want to follow. It is much harder to follow the one who rides into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey colt in silence, tottering towards death.
I imagine this was a lonely, heartbreaking time for Jesus. As he listened to the praises of the crowd, he must have known that he would not live up to their expectations. That the salvation he offered was not the salvation they wanted.
It is easy to do. To make Jesus into what we want him to be. To latch onto him at just those moments when he seems to fulfill our hopes, our needs, our expectations.
But ultimately, when we only look to Jesus for the salvation we want, we deprive ourselves of the fullness of the salvation Jesus offers.