March Madness is upon us. I saw a report yesterday that claimed nearly 40-percent of America’s workplaces have some kind of a bracket contest going among employees. I wonder how many churches are involved? I’ve got brackets entered at home against Whitney, here at church with the other ministers and staff, and in an ESPN group of our Central church young families. For the record I’ve got Kentucky, Ohio State, Missouri, and Kansas in the Final Four with the Jayhawks beating Mizzou for the title. Matthew and Greg made fun of my picks this morning. It’s on!
Luke’s portrait of Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem is striking in its contrasts. The crowd is cheering, but Jesus is crying. The people are shouting and praising; they’re exalting Jesus. But Jesus is crying.
The people believe Jesus has come to purge the nation of their Roman oppressors. They want Jesus to revive the ancient glories of Israel’s heyday under King David. That’s what the people want. And they’re not bashful about it.
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Blessed is the King of Israel!”
Jesus is the only one in this scene who really knows what’s happening. What Jesus is doing as he rides into the holy city is revealing God. What Jesus is doing shows us the heart of God and the plan of God. It shows us what God is all about. This deliberate and determined ride into Jerusalem is an unforgettable statement about the nature of the King and the Kingdom of God. Some people today rejoice in this statement; some people still don’t understand this statement; and some people flat out reject it.
See, Jesus is riding into Jerusalem to die. He’s coming to suffer and die.
This is not like the typical entry into a capitol city of a triumphant king. This is really like the anti-triumphal entry. Jesus does not enter Jerusalem on a white charger or a black horse of war. He rides a lowly beast of burden. He doesn’t carry a bunch of war trophies and a train of captives behind him. In fact, by the end of the week, he’ll be the one led as a captive outside the city gates and killed. Jesus doesn’t share everyone’s hopes and dreams of earthly glory and power. He doesn’t come to establish a kingdom to rival Rome. He comes to suffer. And sacrifice. He comes to die. He comes as a king who will be crowned not with priceless jewels, but with painful thorns. He doesn’t come to sit on a throne, but to hang from a tree. He’s doing the exact opposite of what the people expect out of a king.
Jesus is not a man of chariots and swords; he is the One who brings peace to all nations. His gift is a gift of life, not force or power. The people are expecting a mighty and conquering king; but in Jesus they get a sacrificial servant. And when he doesn’t deliver on their political and economic desires, they kill him.
The people shout, “Hosanna! Save Us!” And when Jesus says, “I will save you, just not in the ways you expect,” they begin to shout, “Crucify him!” When Jesus says, “I am coming to save you in ways that will far surpass in eternal glory anything you or your ancestors ever experienced or even dreamed about with the kingdom of David,” they kill him.
Jesus is not a way for us to get what we want politically or economically or socially or nationally. He didn’t come so we could create a better version of the kingdom of the world. Jesus came so we could be a part of an entirely new and eternal Kingdom of God.