Formation Fridays: Renewal and Resurrection
There is an ancient church saying from an unknown source:
“The joy of the resurrection renews the whole world.”
We are quickly approaching the end of the Lenten season. This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the day which commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I imagine the elation of the people as Jesus rode into Jerusalem astride a donkey. They were celebrating the Messianic age. God was finally liberating them from their Roman oppressors. They may even have thought that it was their turn to be the ones in charge.
The people were dancing, probably singing, shouting “Save us now!” (hosanna), waving palm branches, laying their coats on the ground in front of Jesus. Smiles all around. Joy, in a sense.
On this side of history, we know that this is not what happened. The people’s hopes were shattered—even Jesus’ disciples. Jesus did not topple the Roman oppressors. He did not usher in a military kingdom. He entered into Jerusalem a hero and within a week he would be executed as a traitor to his people.
As we enter into Holy Week, I am reflecting on the metaphor in this story. I see a people expecting a very specific Messiah, and Jesus being a very different kind of Christ.
How often do I do that?
How often do I expect Jesus to show up, announce his arrival, proclaim a great victory, only to be disappointed, let down?
When I read this story, I see a people that were very excited for their Messiah. The problem was their Messiah didn’t really exist. What they thought of the Messiah was a projection of their own wishes and desires. Their Messiah was following their plan instead of God’s.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t deep, earthly implications to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It isn’t all “pie-in-the-sky-after-you-die.” I’m increasingly convinced that this is ideology has very little to do with Jesus.
But Jesus, as he enters Jerusalem, is aiming at a much bigger target. He is showing us the way: the way to ascend by descending, the way to life is in death. Instead of overturning the oppressors, Jesus overturned our ideas of what power means. When he had all power at his disposal, Jesus submitted himself to a death that was considered a curse from God.
As we near our celebration of Easter, I pray that we can be attentive to where Christ is in our lives. I pray that we can celebrate that reality, even if it doesn’t look like how we assumed it would. I pray that that presence brings us hope. I pray that we, like the rest of the world, find renewal in the Resurrection.
In joy and in hope,