Monday, March 21, 2016

What does our Savior Look Like?

Yesterday was Palm Sunday in the Western church.

And what do we do for Palm Sunday?  We read the story of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a colt (or donkey, depending on the year) and follow that up with a one-two punch of the passion story.

Jesus is welcomed as the Messiah by the mob.  And then less than a week later that mob is turning on him shouting for him to be crucified.

It's emotional whiplash, to say the least.

But, is it really surprisingly, given what we know about humanity?

The mob expects Jesus to be the Messiah - to be the military leader and conquerer who will teach them to violently overthrow the Romans.  They probably expected him to come riding in on a mighty stallion.

So what does Jesus do?  He rides on a colt (or donkey, or both) and completely messes with their head.

They roll out the red carpet for him.  They praise him the way they would a returning conquerer.

And what does Jesus do?

He goes to the temple and teaches about justice.  And God's kingdom.  And the different ways that God wants all people to be in right relationships with one another and God.  And most of all - to quote Bob Dylan - that "the times, they are a-changing."

And Jesus' message strikes fear in the hearts of those in power.  Who then, in turn, incite fear into the mob - the very mob who just days earlier was shouting for joy and praising Jesus.

What's the consequence of irrational fear?

Violence.

Those in power and the mob now shout crucify.  Kill the one who wants to bring justice and change to the world.

Kill Jesus.  Kill our Messiah - the one who let us down and failed us.

Lynch him.

But...do it legally.

Let's set him up.

Let's bust him for false drug charges.

Let's beat him up in prison.  Let's call him names.  Let's degrade him and try to take away his humanity.

Let's whip up the jury into a frenzy during his trial.

Let's pressure the judge into giving him the worst possible sentence.

The let's hang Jesus up.

And watch the Messiah die.
Let's watch the Son of God die.

All because the message of salvation that Jesus brings us isn't one of violence.  It's one of peace.  It's not a message of war, but one of a day without death.

All because Jesus isn't about building walls and keeping people out, but building longer tables and letting people in.

And all of this got to me yesterday.

This message.  This story.  And our world.

I thought about how America is going crazy.  How hundreds of thousands of people are pushing for more violence.  For more war.  For more fear.  For bigger walls (quite literally).

And I thought about what the Messiah actually looks like.

She will be the one who simply refuses to get up out of her seat.  The one who climbs the flagpole and removes a symbol of oppression.

She will be the one advocating for longer tables.

She will be the one offering a day of no more death.  No more war.  Justice for all people.

She will be the one who gets beat up.  She will be the one who gets strung up.  She will be the one who gets shot.

And how many of us will miss her?

How many of us will be so afraid that we follow the false Messiah?

How many of us will be open our eyes and look to places where God shows up time after time - the oppressed, the poor, those who are beaten down and enslaved by the system - and look for our Messiah there?

My hope is that we will find her.  And that we will pay attention to her.

And that she will change our lives the same way the empty tomb changed everything.