This was a good book to read with a study group through Lent. It’s a short one, but filled with very helpful guidance as to why Jesus died and why his death was and is important.
We studied this book in pursuit / guidance for the questions: “Why did Jesus die?” and “Why did Jesus have to die?” (Note the nuance between dying and the necessity of his death.)
I feel this little book helped us explore the answers to that question. And, it sums up like this:
Jesus, the crucified one, is also the resurrected one. In crucifixion, our king (Jesus) goes to battle against death, sin, and the Accuser.
Then he rises. And, we respond:
“Jesus is raised,” they say, “therefore he is the Messiah; he is the true Lord of the whole world; therefore we, his followers, have a job to do: we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world.” (Chapter 3)
Palm Sunday being on April Fool’s day has me thinking this morning…
They match, really, these two days. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem two thousand years ago the people met him with an expectation Jesus would not fulfill. The bloodlust, riled against the Roman empire, could not let the King of Peace come and stay. At the end of “Palm Sunday,” King Jesus wanders down to Bethany instead of staying in the capital city Jerusalem.
Like April Fools? Sure: when we do our pranks and say, “Ah, relax! I was just kidding! April Fools!”
Now, Jesus wasn’t being sinister. He was hoping for a prepared heart, a prepared people, a people who’d been immersed in the anticipations the prophets had written (and gotten killed for). He’d have rather gathered the people like a mom gives a good hug – but they’d have nothing to do with that. Embrace wasn’t their hope – vengeance was. (And it remains this way for the un-renovated heart – may God have mercy and work to change us.)
And for today? I wonder why we make such a big celebration out of Palm Sunday. It’s the day where we remember a human failure to see the king as the king was going to be (rather than as a fulfillment to our national desires, identities, etc.).
How can we adapt? Come the end of this week we’ll see the king beginning Jesus’ rule as he’s lifted high. Come the Monday after Easter we’ll see if the king we celebrated on Good Friday and Easter Sunday is someone we truly desire to have as our king. (Grace will flavor our steps and intentions.) If we cannot change and will not see change in our lives, each day will be a perpetual Palm Sunday – an unfortunate declaration of a king who’s not really our king.
“The difference between the teleioi (the ‘maturing’, ‘perfecting’ ones) and those Paul labels ‘babes in Christ, or ‘people of the flesh,’ or those dominated by ‘jealousy and strife’, is that the mature have been trained to recognize God’s power in the crucified Christ, and their spiritual maturity consists precisely in this: they rely totally on God’s life-in-the-midst of death, rather than on themselves.” (Elizabeth Koenig, “Cross and Spirituality,” The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, p.220)
What a fantastically deep quote.
How do you relate to this?
Finally, how can we train in this way together?
Here’s an interesting, conversation starter:
“Trials, such as the McCourt’s, (from Angela’s Ashes) can be illuminating. They often display the substance of one’s character, or lack thereof. But struggles aren’t the only metric for identifying the nature of one’s faith. Other measurements include generous giving to ministry, the activity of gospel witness, and spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible reading, and participation in a local church. The last of these is especially revealing as we consider the contours of religious commitment in the U.S.
According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, over 132 million Americans identify with the Mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox traditions. Sociologists of religion say that three in four of these individuals neglect church participation.
While these people generally use the designation “Christian,” they are in fact only “partially evangelized” since the person and work of Jesus remain absent or ancillary to their life. Despite exposure to the Christian tradition, the “gospel” (in terms of new life in Christ, the authority of scripture, and an active commitment to outreach) is conspicuously missing. This is precisely the need which evangelicals are poised to serve.”
What comes to mind after reading this?
Lausanne World Pulse – Ministry to the Partially Evangelized
What would have happened if 2,000 years ago, Mary the Mother of Jesus had denied the message sent to her? What if her heart was not prepared to receive it? What if, in her troubled state when the angel first visits with her (Luke 1) she disbelieves instead of anticipates?
Thankfully, I do not have to be concerned with the “what if’s” for Mary. Her example lays enshrined in history. Her response was faithful and nurtured by anticipation and hope.
What about my own hope and anticipation? What if God is today desiring to cause life from himself to take root within my soul? How might my soul be prepared to anticipate, receive and obey in faithfulness?