Palm Sunday, Lenten Season 2019
Palm Sunday Meditation by Michelle Higgins
Old Testament Reading: Zechariah 9:9-17
New Testament Reading: John 12
In the time when Zechariah prophecies the arrival of a Redeemer-King on the foal of a donkey,there must have been a few suspicious side eyes in reaction. What king on the face of the earth is both victorious and humble? (Zech. 9.9) What mockery was meant by naming the people “prisoners of hope”? (Zech. 9.11) There is no shortage of complexity in the story of salvation.
In Jesus, perfection and divinity are acquainted with lament and trepidation. He boldly declares that His death will have purpose. He humbly reveals the troubling of His soul. Were we there, were we to witness with our own eyes, we would see - as the old folks say - that it caused Him to tremble. But He was determined to save the flock of His people, the jewels of His crown (Zech 9.16). Jesus was not yearning to suffer. He was yearning to end our suffering at any cost.
This is the King whose coming we rejoice: lowly in His divinity and humanity, triumphant by the purpose of His power to save, not condemn.
This is the authority that will cast out the rulers of the world.
When the Son of Man is lifted up, the people flourish, they shine on the land.
When the chief priests exercised authority, they sought to silence the people by murdering a miracle. The plot to kill Lazarus proves their fear of the people’s power to bear witness. (John 12. 9-11)
Any authority who schemes for people’s suffering is no kin to God’s anointed. When the current president flexes in hatred and stupidity, he is not changing the pattern of how power is practiced in the United States. For this and many nations, sovereignty is birthed by massacre. Authority is best maintained through threat of death by poverty, imprisonment, or social shame.
“Many of the authorities” who believed in Jesus but would not confess it were silenced by their own fear of the rulers - the Pharisees - whose power Jesus preached down. (John 12.42,43)
They were lovers of man-glory at any cost. Is John’s insight on them a mirror for us?
What places and positions entice us to deny God’s radiance? How can we stop payment on our bribes for social importance?
The glory of man is not our king. We must not honor this blindness, in earnest or complicity. If we have heard the testimony of the The Savior King - known Him to turn tables, sleep through storms, call the dead out of their grave clothes - then we need not fear being put out of the synagogue for following Him. God’s glory empowers humanity without threat. When Jesus is lifted up, when “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”, it is God’s beloved that receives all the benefit - it is His glory to lay down His life.
God’s glory confounds us through humility. Force is not necessary when worship is love. Even in prophetic confrontation - his litany of woes - Jesus did not speak in His own authority. **Alright saints, if you did not praise break right there, then we just don’t know when to shout**
Jesus, the Word that made the mountains and the seas, Jesus humbles himself. Lowers ego. Went to Calvary to save a wretch like me, because He is commanded to do so. And this commandment is not “do this or die”. Quite the opposite - the commandment itself is life. John 12.50, the commandment is eternal life. This is the magnificent reversal of empire power.
Now I am going back to Zechariah 9. I am struck by the call to action of this Old Testament prophecy I so often overlooked. I feel the prophetic visions unfold into my Lenten loneliness. I remember my fears of death by taxes, paperwork and parenting failures. I see the oppression that tempts my people to yearn for the glories of man.
What must God’s people do?
See - the glory of the triumphant, humble King. He rides a donkey, has no use for a war horse.
Return - to the fortress of hope, perhaps our Lord Jesus secluded Himself in this fortress (John 12.36-37), far from the crowds who confused popularity with pious action.
Behold - God’s actions far outnumber those that God’s people will take for the work of ultimate liberation.
Worship - Our primary role does not change. Now as we behold the King approaching, later when we are flourishing after the nations are governed under true peace - we are called to shout aloud. To firstly, finally, rejoice!
A Prayer for Palm Sunday
God of Hagar, Rahab, Ruth, and Mary
Healer and Hearer to Joanna, to Magdalene
Lover of Your Bride
How great is Your goodness, how startling Your beauty!
Oh Lord, we read your promises as through a kaleidoscope
We ask the Spirit that we would see -
That we would hear
We desire understanding with our hearts -
That we would turn
That You would heal
Coming King of Zion, cut off the chariot and the battle bow.
Speak peace to the nations, rescue us from waterless pits.
Loose the shackles of our imprisonment to everything but hope.
Make us servants of Your humility, bind us to Your urgency