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Posts Tagged ‘Triumphal Entry’

As we approach what is arguably the most significant week on the Christian calendar, I find myself drawn to the scene known to Christians as “The Triumphal Entry”.  As Jesus heads toward Jerusalem for the Passover, He is met by crowds of people, who hail Him as King; laying down their cloaks and palm branches along the road.  The scene is filled with symbolic images that would be obvious to those immersed within the Jewish culture and it would seem to be a fitting response to the short, but amazing ministry of Jesus.  Unfortunately, just a few short days later, there would be crowds yelling, “Crucify Him!” in the heart of Jerusalem.  Years ago, I caught myself wondering how the people had managed to get from the elation of the Triumphal Entry to the scorn of the crucifixion; and as I was praying, I felt as though the Lord began to give me some insight.

 

The first realization was that the voices hailing Him as King on the road to Jerusalem were likely not the same voices shouting “Crucify Him!” in the center of town.  Luke’s gospel characterizes the people who met Him on the road as disciples, and John’s gospel explains that these were people who’d been touched by Jesus’ ministry; much of which had occurred outside of Jerusalem.  While there were a few amongst this crowd who weren’t supportive (i.e. Pharisee’s), these people were essentially His followers.

 

I also sensed that the location was significant; as these people met Him outside of town, on the road coming from the Mount of Olives.  While Jerusalem represented the center (i.e. the mainstream, the establishment…) of Jewish culture, this coronation took place on the outskirts of the city and ultimately of the culture.  These people were not necessarily the elite, the powerful, or the influential; they were just people who’d encountered Jesus and who had some sense of His significance.  Jesus Himself seems to make the distinction between these followers who were praising Him, and the mainstream of the culture, as He stops in the midst of this atmosphere and weeps for Jerusalem; stating that they did not understand the time of God’s coming to them.

 

Within the city the atmosphere was very different; with the most powerful and influential elements of the culture at least wary of Jesus, while most were deeply threatened by Him.  Jesus did not enter the city meekly, as He proceeded to the temple and immediately began to turn over the tables of the money changers.  The authority with which He spoke, and the influence He seemed to be having with the people were something that the (self-appointed) guardians of the culture could not tolerate.  While those who met Him on the road may have been totally sincere in their declarations, they were not powerful enough to stand against the mainstream of the culture.  The scripture doesn’t record any cries of rebuttal to the shouts for His crucifixion, nor any uprising amongst the people to come to His defense.

 

As I pondered the jubilant atmosphere of our Palm Sunday services, I realize that the followers of Jesus Christ in America are in much the same situation today.  The church in America has been relegated to the fringe of the culture, where our declarations of Christ’s kingship will not reach the ears of those in the mainstream.  Our gatherings are tolerated, as long as they remain on the outskirts of the national psyche.  Within the elements that mold and shape our culture (e.g. media, government, education…) there is no longer a tolerance for the name of Jesus.  While we as His people may be sincere in our convictions, we’ve been largely silenced within the mainstream of our society.

 

As I pondered all of this, I was reminded of Peter speaking to the people of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.  Just days before Peter had been afraid to even admit that he knew Jesus; yet after being empowered by the Holy Spirit, he stood boldly before the very people who demanded the crucifixion, declaring their need to repent of killing the Messiah.  Isn’t it interesting that the Lord instructed the Apostles not to leave Jerusalem; after all the Holy Spirit could have come to wherever they were, but God wanted this to take place in Jerusalem.

 

What began on that day was not natural; the Apostles didn’t run for election to the city council, they didn’t circulate petitions around Jerusalem protesting the unfair treatment of Jesus; they didn’t buy up businesses within the city to gain influence over the people; they tapped into the promised, supernatural power of God.  While the Apostles position within the culture didn’t change, their influence can still be felt today.

 

As the followers of Jesus Christ in America plot to regain influence within our culture, I’d suggest that we too need to tap into the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit before we attempt to engage the culture.  While gaining positions of influence within the culture can certainly help to effect change, without the power of God, we risk being more influenced by the culture than being an influence for Christ.  Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain; apart from Him we can do nothing, but through Him all things are possible.

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