“The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.”
| John 12.12, NRSV
It is interesting to see how people prepare the way for Jesus today. In America, we set up shop at his grave, selling -covered crosses, bubble gum eggs and bunny slippers. “Get your empty tomb t-shirt here!” Jesus’ death is treated as a coming attraction and we have shows at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Like the temple priests, we try to mix Almighty God with almighty dollar; then, wonder why the world is not turned upside down. Because Jesus did not come for our entertainment but for our edification. And his kingdom will not be commercialized.
Our coupons and his cross, our sales and his salvation, we think that we can save Jesus for ourselves. We pretend that he only likes people like us. But, his body, his believers are not a gated community. And if the first will be last, then there are no first- class seats, no miles to cash in, no points to redeem. God with us—not just with you or me. Jesus does not belong to us but we belong to each other in him. His blood relates us and demonstrates for us what living is all about.
As if we can keep Jesus for ourselves, we try to arm wrestle Scripture, like we can fight against its witness, as if we can somehow pin down its promise and make it bend to our will. No, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16). How is it then, that we will gather around his cross but will be no closer to each other? How do we maintain the distance when God came this close to us, face- to- face with us in Christ?
As if we can keep Jesus to ourselves, to somehow get ahead of his beginning or talk over his words, we speak as if we are the only ones who know Jesus, that we have a handle on the real Jesus. We act as if Jesus is in our circle and we influence him, that he is small enough to fit into our click, our culture, our country, our political party affiliation. No, that bobble- head Jesus is made in America. Because Jesus’ side was pierced so that we would not have to pick sides. He prayed that we would be one, reconciled to his body (John 17.21).
Besides, our arms are too short to hold Jesus back, to keep Jesus from going to the other side of the tracks, to people we don’t like and don’t want to understand, who we would rather fight with than be reconciled with. His first disciples tried this, to get Jesus to love and lead between the lines. They wanted him to reinforce the boundaries, to bless their prejudices. They wanted to keep him under their finger, directing the way that he should go.
They wanted him to be the Savior they had in mind. Forget the will of God; they had big plans for Jesus. They knew what they wanted him to do for them.
Described as the triumphal entry, he enters the city on a donkey. In Matthew’s gospel, they throw their cloaks on the ground as well as branches from trees. John is more specific; the branches are from the palm tree and are a symbol of victory. Jesus has won their hearts.
The disciples are walking with him but don’t have a clue as to what is happening right now. They’ll get it later. It will all make sense in hindsight. Well, we’ve had more than two thousand years to think about it.
He won’t come riding in a stretch limousine. He won’t wear sunglasses, sign autographs or give network interviews. He’s not running for office because the government rests on his shoulders. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. In fact, he is like no one we’ve seen. And like the disciples, you will be with him and you still won’t see him coming.
“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel! (John 12.13)” How will you respond when Jesus comes to town?