Things aren’t always what they appear to be upon first observation. That’s the dynamic we see at work on that first Palm Sunday. On the surface, it was a great day, but underneath there’s a significant problem.
Palm Sunday starts with a bang- a tremendous day, etc. But underneath the surface of that celebration there is something’s wrong. Jesus is clearly aware of that discouraging undercurrent; the malaise covered up by the mountain top Palm Sunday Praise. And so, He weeps over Jerusalem, for the things that make for peace eludes them.
Things aren’t always what they seem to be on the surface. If it’s true today, t was true in Jesus’ day; remarkably, sadly true on Palm Sunday. So Jesus weeps over the city. Saying, If you,…,had only known on this day what would bring you peace…
2300 years ago the prophet Zechariah announced that Jerusalem’s King would come to her riding lowly on the back of a donkey. 300 years after the prophet uttered those words, Jesus quite deliberately and consciously chose to enter Jerusalem, riding in lowly fashion on the back of a donkey.
By this he was claiming, both symbolically and in terms of the exultation of the crowd, His Lordship and His Kingship. He was received with Hosannas and Hallelujahs but within a few days, they had become expressions of hatred and transformed themselves into the Hell of the Cross. He approached Jerusalem triumphantly down a corridor of palms, but within a few short days, he was hanging from a cross. What’s the problem underneath the surface on that decisive Palm Sunday?
You see, Jesus is aware that something other than God’s dream has priority. While this is true of the people it is true of their leaders. First the people- Political ambition is mistaken for zeal in the cause of God. The people of Jerusalem are playing power politics with the Romans. Out with Rome up with Jesus. Expel Pontius Pilate install Jesus. This is God’s dream, God’s will. God is on their side.
If Jesus could feed 5000, heal lepers, raise the dead, think what he could do with the Romans. What a political messiah and nations savior he could be. And Jesus weeps over the city, because he knows what happens to those nations who play power politics with Rome- they are destroyed.
He has seen the crosses of crucifixion scattered throughout the land from former revolts against Rome. Furthermore, if you paid your taxes to Rome and didn’t rebel there was a great deal of freedom permitted. Jesus sees where their misguided faith will inevitably end.
Jesus does not come as a warrior king; but a servant-king of peace. In a scandalous reversal of the world’s values, the sovereign Lord comes as a servant. He takes a towel and basin of water and washes his disciples feet. What he wants to be for his people is a Servant-Savior of boundless compassion, unbearable forgiveness, and healing love. The people missed what God was doing and wanted to do in and through them. It was a matter of faith/principle to oppose the Romans. And yet the real things of faith suffered- service, love, and mercy.
If the people were mistaken so were Jerusalem’s leaders. They are about political maneuver and intrigue to preserve the system they believe is of God. But the leaders would rather construct a system of laws to keep people out.
Brennan Manning writes in his book A Glimpse of Jesus. “I would rather be numbered among the little band who have learned loving service from Jesus and the Bible, than among the legalizers, moralizers, and hair-splitters, who are so busy straining at the gnat that they swallow the camel. There is simply no sense trumpeting the Lordship of Jesus, if his attitudes, values, and behavior are not recognizable in our lives.”
Jesus not only cries over Jerusalem, in holy anger he drives the sellers out of the temple; their system has become corrupt. Jesus is aware, intensely cognizant, that something other than the dream of God has priority for both the leaders and the people in Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday day of days.
Isn’t that the way it is with us too. All too often something other than Jesus’ dreams and desires are driving us. We have compelling dreams other than those of Jesus. And these other dreams have their consequences… They are not in our best interests or Christ’s best interests. May we have passionate and compelling dreams for the dreams of Jesus. Let’s make that our prayer today.