One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as a parent is wave goodbye to my child as she’s being wheeled away to surgery, thus leaving her completely in the hands of someone else, even though I’m confident her surgeons and medical staff want the best for her. I have to willfully walk away from that corridor, and my heart breaks every time. I cannot even fathom how our Father made the choice to not intervene during his son’s suffering and death at the hands of people who hated him. I also cannot fathom that son, Jesus, choosing to willfully walk toward Jerusalem, toward his suffering, toward his enemies, toward his death.
We know in our heads that Jesus is God. Our brains understand, as much as possible, that Jesus is holy and that he never sinned. We know that he created us and everything around us (John 1:3). We know that he has always been. “Before Abraham was, I am!” John 8:58. But what do our hearts see about Jesus?
Our hearts should see a man who seeks comfort from his friends and family before facing a challenge. The night before voluntarily entering Jerusalem to begin a week filled with some of the most dark, brutal, horrendous, calculating agony that a human body could possibly endure, Jesus and his apostles sat at a kitchen table in a familiar home and ate a meal prepared by one of his best friends. Mary, Martha and Lazarus gave Jesus comfort that night even without knowing the extent of what the immediate future held for him. John 12:2 says that they were “reclining at the table”. They were enjoying each other’s company, even though the inevitable was close at hand. There’s just something about a good meal with good friends that can bring you comfort. That’s just what Jesus, the human, was doing. He was being comforted and even honored by his friends.
The next day he willfully walked away from the comfort of his friends’ home, got on a donkey and rode toward his physical demise. Because the news of his miracles had reached all the people in the land, and because the entire Jewish population (and even some Gentiles) had come to Jerusalem for Passover Week, God chose this exact time for Jesus to make this most public and triumphal entry. Throngs of people laid a path of palm branches in his honor as he entered the city. Why do you think it is called the “Triumphal Entry”? I mean, Jesus was about to be killed, wasn’t he? I believe it is because of this verse in John 12:19, “So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” Triumph! At this point in time, Jesus had won the minds AND hearts of the Jewish people! They believed in Him! So what did that mean for those who held the powerful positions in the political world? If Jesus truly was the Messiah, the Savior, that meant they had been left out of the plan. Jesus had not included in his ministry the elite and most godly of the land but instead chose lowly men and even women to share his life and to invest the words of the Father. These people held no position in society, had no standing in the community. Actually, some were the exact opposite. Mary Magdalene was a former prostitute. Peter, Andrew, James and John caught fish for a living, so they stunk on a regular basis (I know this smell first-hand thanks to my husband!) Matthew was a sell-out to his own people by being a tax collector for the Romans and thus stealing from the Jews. These low-lives could not possibly be the inner circle of the Most High God! But they were. And the powers-at-be could not reconcile that. Therefore, they became so filled with hatred that Jesus, with his crew of riff-raffs, had become the true Prince of the people. It had to be stopped.
But Jesus didn’t stop by just entering the city. He went into the temple and started teaching to all of the people who would come to listen. Luke says in chapter 20:1 that “he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel”. Talk about bold! He didn’t stay on the outskirts or even in the neighborhoods close by. He rolled right up there into the most sacred and public place and started preaching. That “Palm Sunday” marked Jesus’ outward rebellion and disrespect for man-made power and self-given authority. For the next few days, he spoke about God’s love (the gospel), about his own impending death for all the people, about choosing to give God not just your money but your heart as well, and he also told the people to beware of the “teachers of the law”. (We’ll look deeper into these teachings later this week.)
Jesus was so convincing that even some of the rulers started to believe in Him. John 12:42-43 says, “Yet, at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” Wow, sound familiar? The year on the calendar may have changed, but the desire for political power is still the same.
My challenge for you and for me is to start this week with the desire to open our hearts as wide as possible to see who Jesus is. Read the book of John. Pray each day that God will reveal Himself to you more and more so that you can take as much of Him into your heart as humanly possible. He became human for this exact reason. He became flesh like us, walked the earth, made friendships, celebrated weddings, enjoyed eating fish and home cooked meals, cried with his best friends, all the while pointing them to the Father. Walk with me as we look into what each day of Passover Week looked like for Jesus. I’ll leave you with this verse in John 12:27-28a, Jesus said, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Jesus was “troubled” at what was about to happen to him, but he still willfully walked toward salvation for you and for me. Without that voluntary journey, you and I would have no hope. Thank you Jesus for your “Triumphal Entry”!
Have a wonderful week getting to know your Savior. He will change your life!