Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Palm Sunday: Setting the Stage

You are the age you are now, except the year is 30 A.D.

You are a Jewish peasant living in occupied Israel. Your father was basically a sharecropper; he farmed his tiny bit of land and you tried to live off the tiny amount that was left after the Romans and the corrupt tax collectors took almost everything. You have been living a starvation diet most of your life, as has your entire village.

You neither read nor write, but you have sat at the feet of your rabbi all your life, as he tells stories from the days of the Macabees, when heroic, larger than life guerilla warriors fought against the occupiers, and for a time they won. They had God on their side, they had proven what the Scriptures always said: with God on your side, a tiny army against all odds can defeat a huge enemy.

Your rabbi’s father told the same stories to your father; and these things were never questioned.

A few years ago your uncle, who believed these stories completely and desperately wanted to prove himself a man, joined the insurrection. Over a thousand of his friends gathered in the hills, and they marched on Jerusalem -- but they were smart, they waited for Passover; they came into the town during the time of festival; they blended in with the thousands of pilgrims coming to celebrate the great feast and to sacrifice at the Temple. They gained entry into the city by these means, and once inside, they launched a revolt.

They were summarily rounded up and executed. Days later you saw his corpse; it was one of hundreds of crucified rebels lining the road into town. Your father told you not to look, but you did anyway and you’re sorry you did.

But lately there has been a rising sense of hope in the air. Finally, everyone is saying, the time has come. This is the time. I mean, really the time, this is not just our imagining. God has finally heard the groans of his people. Finally, the debt has been paid; finally our sins no longer stand in the way of God and his people. Finally, God will be on our side once again; the long punishment is over; God’s kingdom will once again be established.

There is a great man, they say he is the one. He will deliver Israel. He heals people just by touching them. He even rose a man from the dead! And today – this is the Passover feast; He is marching on Jerusalem with his followers; Today, just as the Holy Scriptures predicted, just as the rabbi has been saying all our lives, today is the day when he will enter the city, and a cloud of witnesses, a host of angels will descend upon the Romans; he will command legions of angels, and the Romans will finally be driven from the Temple; and our long suffering will be over.

They say he is the one. Finally, there is a reason to hope.

Your heart is beating, you can barely contain your excitement. The crowds are gathering; the angels are at the ready; this is the day; this is the time.

Now listen to the story of the Passion: Matthew

(Matthew 26:14-27:66)

What do we do....

when our godly dreams are shattered?

when our righteous prayers go unanswered?

when this God that we have given our lives to turns out to be... all too human?

Pray with me that, as we move through Holy Week, these questions will find an answer.

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