4-6-17 - Who Is This?

Every once in a while I come across a news item about some reality or sports star I’ve never heard of, who has gained some notoriety, or picked up another million or so Twitter followers – and I go, “Who the heck is that?” Evidently that’s how some people on the edges of that crowd hailing Jesus with palm branches and “Hosanna!”s felt:

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?’"The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."

Some in the crowd recognized him as the Christ, the Messiah. Many assumed that the Messiah would have a military mission, liberating them from the hated Romans as their forebears had been liberated from Egyptian domination. A greater majority probably saw Jesus as a prophet, for only a prophet sent from God could do the kind of miracles Jesus was doing, and speak with the authority with which he spoke. It was a big deal to be regarded as a prophet – but to be seen as Messiah? That was less likely.

The proportions in that crowd may be similar to the way Jesus is seen in the world today. To many he is a prophet. Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and other traditions, as well as some atheists and agnostics, see him as an important world religious figure of inestimable influence. I suspect some who claim the title “Christian” also view him this way, as an important moral teacher and prophet, but not divine. Baha'i see Christ as divine, though not in quite the same way as Christians do. To credal Christians, though, and to some in that crowd that day, Jesus was more than prophet. He had been revealed as Lord, Adonai, the long-awaited Deliverer.

Many people in our own day still say, when they hear of Jesus, “Who is this?” It is our privilege to make the introductions, to say who we have experienced Jesus to be. We can also be sure people hear of Jesus. We don’t have to spout a party line or to tell other people’s stories – we can speak out of our own experience, and out of our tradition.

This time in our church year, when we mark Holy Week and Easter, is a particularly good time to tell our stories and make our introductions – invite people to come and experience the story for themselves on Palm Sunday, to hear the scope of God’s love for humanity at the Great Vigil of Easter, to soak up the celebration and joy on Easter Sunday.

And if our experience of Jesus is limited to what we’ve heard or read; if we’re still asking “Who is this?” ourselves, then we can ask him to make himself real to us in a new way this year, so that we can receive - and share - the gift more fully.

Wherever we find ourselves in this story, I hope we will share the ministry of that donkey – to bear Christ into the crowds, humble and patient, lifting him up for all to see, getting him to the places he needs to be in order to transform the world.

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