Today we celebrated the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, surrounded by people hailing him as the Messiah. Evidently this procession was not the only one making it's way into the city that day. The Roman governor, Pilate, was also entering Jerusalem with his forces. This was something that happened before every Jewish holiday. After all, the Romans had to remind the Jews who really was in charge.
So, you have an imperial Roman procession on one side of the city and a subversive, Messianic parade on the other side. The people shouting, "Hosanna!" as Jesus made his way along the road thought they understood what was going on. As they saw it, this man who had performed so many miracles was the promised king who would drive out the hated Gentile oppressors and restore the glory of Israel. Unfortunately, as the week unfolded, many of these same people, now disillusioned, would join in the calls for his crucifixion by those same oppressors.
Those folks were partially right. Jesus was the promise Messiah. He had come to set up a kingdom and free them from their oppression. What they didn't realize was the nature of the kingdom. It was a kingdom that is not of this world, a kingdom that came in, not by way of overthrowing the present empire, but by the king dying at the hands of that empire. The Jews were expecting God to do things the way they expected. They didn't understand that God rarely works that way.
I thought of how many times I've prayed for things and thought that God was going to answer those prayers in a certain way, either because I had jumped through a certain number of hoops to "earn" God's blessing, or because I couldn't think of any other way God could act. I trusted in God for the things I thought he would (or should) do. Like the Jews I followed Jesus for what I could get out of it. The funny thing is, God never seemed to do the things that I expected, yet so many things turned out in such a way that I knew the Father was taking care of me. Things were not all sweetness and light, and sometimes I questioned God about what he was doing. But I can look back on those days and see that God was there, and that he was working.
During our times together at St. Thomas, we have seen that God is not predictable. He is not someone who can be counted on to always do things a certain way. God relates to people in all kinds of ways, and we cannot tie him down to a particular plan of action. None of us can figure God out, yet he calls us into relationship with him. In that relationship we learn to trust God simply for who he is rather than for what we think he can do for us.
Be encouraged. Your Father loves you more than you know. He has given you his life and his glory. Trust the Father, even when the parade of Palm Sunday turns into the darkness of Friday.
From my opportunity to teach in our gathering this morning:
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