4-3-17 - To Jerusalem

How to focus Water Daily the next two weeks? The Gospel for Palm Sunday is the whole Passion story, and the following week it’s Easter. But I don’t want us exploring the empty tomb while we’re still in Holy Week; that’s like peeking at the last page while you’re still in chapter 5. This week we’ll do the “other” Gospel story for next Sunday, the story of the palms for which the day is named, which we dispense with after the first ten minutes of the service.

So… onward, to Jerusalem, where the week begins with Jesus’ riding in triumphantly, lauded by crowds, and goes horribly, horribly wrong, ending with his brutal crucifixion. Jesus had been saying for some time that he must go to Jerusalem, where he will be arrested, tried and executed. Earlier, Pharisees had warned him to avoid Jerusalem, because Herod wanted to kill him. Jesus responded,

“Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” - Luke 13:32-35

The people of Israel had a funny relationship to their prophets. They revered them – and frequently sought to have them killed because they didn’t like their messages. Those messages veered between, “You’d better, or else…” or “It’s too late; you’re in trouble..” Amidst those, however, we can hear another kind of message from God: “I love you. I want so much for us to be together. If you might only do what you promised, honor me, honor each other…” But the people never could. How could they relate to such a fearsome God?

Philip Yancey offers an analogy to the incarnation in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew – he talks about how the fish in his fish tank regarded him with terror, even though he fed them faithfully, and kept their water clean and chemically balanced. His interventions seemed to them like destruction, and they fled to their hiding places whenever he came near. “To my fish I was a deity. I was too large for them, too incomprehensible.” He thought one day, “I would have to become a fish and ‘speak’ to them in a language they could understand.”

Only, it turned out that even when God came among us in a form like ours, those who were deeply invested in the old ways, who had gained power by fostering people’s fear of God, weren’t any more receptive. This prophet, too, must be silenced, eliminated.

How do you think you would have regarded Jesus in his earthly time? Would you have been drawn to his miracles and messages, or put off? Would you have gone to him for healing or forgiveness? Would you have been unsettled by the threat to good order he represented, or thrilled that at last deliverance from oppression might be at hand? With what aspect of Jesus do you most easily connect? Least?

Knowing how we most naturally connect to Jesus can help us strengthen the relationship, and balance it. And there’s no wrong answer, even if we identify with the Pharisees. We know Jesus forgave them too.

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