The Palms

I wonder what it was like that day. Was it a day like this? Was there a spring breeze polishing the perfect blue sky? Were the trees all decked out in their new spring green? Was there a panoply of birdsong?  When Jesus rode through the gates of Jerusalem, the man who had raised Lazarus from the dead, the prophet from Galilee, the Pharisees nemesis, the rebel rockstar of a teacher who gently hammered the established order with his upside-down philosophies and a religion that said God could be your Papa, were the people silent or murmuring? Were they giddy with anticipation? Did they jump at every new face? And when they saw Him, just like Zechariah had predicted, coming into the Holy City on the foal of a donkey, was there a collective gasp? In my mind’s ear I can hear the sudden stoppage of sound as a thousand waiting worshippers drew in their breath at the same time when they realized that, despite the threats against him, he had come back to Jerusalem. And then, after the intake of breath, after the inspiration…

A cacophony of praise! A cheer, a shout, a multitude of human musical instruments ringing out into the bright sky at the end of the old era: “HOSANNA! HOSANNA! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”  Oh, to have been there and seen the palm leaves spontaneously cast before Him; to see them waving in a wild abandon of worship. What a sight! What a sound! So magnificent and powerful that it drowned out the crying rocks!

I’ve been there. I have fallen to pieces at the sudden appearance of my Redeemer. Expected or not, He rides into our lives in ever-changing and unusual vehicles and He always brings the Chaos of Love in His wake and words. And I am thrilled to my very joints, at first.

Then, as the week of passion goes by I start to realize, He is not who I thought He was. All I wanted was a little relief from boredom. All I wanted was a little security to help me face life and death. I just wanted to feel good and love everybody and be loved. I wanted “To say I love you right out loud,” and have “Dreams and Schemes and Circus Clowns,” like Joni Mitchell sang. This Man, this God, this young Hero is talking about self-sacrifice and commitment and following wherever God leads, good or bad. He says He’s the bread of Heaven and the Son of God. He says love my enemies, forgive those who hurt me. He says leave behind my old life and follow Him. Leave it all behind. I don’t think He understands, I don’t think I understand.

The doubt comes in, the crowd is restless, ruthless and the next thing you know, less than a week later, I’m standing in a packed plaza, fist upraised, screaming “Crucify Him!”  He can’t be God, I think to myself, God would be different, less counter-intuitive, more open to ideas of how He might be served.. And He wouldn’t let himself be captured so easily, betrayed by a kiss? Who didn’t see that coming? The God-man that’s who. Seriously, Judas? The most obvious? That’s where all that forgiveness get’s you!

“Sure!” I yell, “Release Barabbas!”  At least he’ll go to war with the Romans!

And then, five days removed from the Palms and the Praise. I stand by and watch Him die. No more songs. No more accolades. No more claims or crazy theology. Just another capital punishment practiced on another troublemaker.

Yeah, I have to believe I would do that. I want to run every time He tries to take my life up a notch. My flesh cries out for rampancy every time I try to follow where He leads me. I have to believe I could be just as fickle as the Jerusalem welcoming committee.

Thank God for Resurrection Sunday three days later, to clean up all of our stupidity.

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