The parade heralding Jesus into Jerusalem took place for many reasons, but for us, it is a metaphor for the divine reality of God becoming man for us. Here I am, he said. He showed us a life of obedience, how to love, and how to give. His ride into Jerusalem matches his riding into our lives.
Jesus is a nonstop arrival, a consistently loving, “Hello, I’m home!” Some children experience this, but all adults need to hear him call to us.
Image by Bessi
By John Pearring
“Therefore do not be afraid of them.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.”
You know phrases like this. Pithy, wise, and from divine origins. Remarkably accurate, yet most challenging to live out.
This scripture is more than a catchword or a quip. It’s an "axiom," an essential truth used in reasoning. If we could only reason Jesus out, we should have no fear about those who cheat, threaten, harm, or even kill us. This axiom, if taken to its fullness of comfort, removes all-controlling evil from our lives.
When my children were little, I watched them operate in daily patterns of doing their best, getting dressed, helping set the table, holding hands for prayers, doing their homework, and saying, “Thank you.” I now watch our children manage the same skills for their kids: eleven semi-obedient, semi-logical, all-in-on-life grandchildren.
At unexpected times they struggle with obedience, enraged over the slightest infringements, and cry with desperation because their hearts are broken. They have to share something they care nothing about or do not get something they have never wanted. Their apologies come quicker and quicker over time until we can see them stop themselves before disobedience and temper tantrums take hold. In their public circles, outside of the family, children and grandchildren will learn the full measure of sacrifice. When mocked for being kind to someone and chastised for treating someone unpopular well, they either hold their ground or cave into the pressure.
Sometimes they remain steadfast for God. Mostly, their audience is a parent. Only later in life do we realize God is the true motivation for being obedient and listening to someone who has our best interests at heart. Parents set the stage, though, for God to lead them. Hopefully, we form their authority experiences because we’re purposely preparing them, not just reacting to their annoying behaviors.
With our modeling and urging, children learn to halt their rage, take a breath, and lower their eyes as they share a bit of candy, a doll’s dress, or a game. They do it to please their parents first, but soon see that peace is more delicious than the stressful violence of anger and pride. Well, that’s how I like to think of it, anyway. It’s incredibly gratifying when children do well in the face of peer group pressure. Everyone’s elated when their child chooses obedience over disobedience, wildness, and distastefulness. They’re primed for God’s love.
Necessarily, children learn to become martyrs when love matters. They know to set aside self-satisfaction and the strange royal superiority of cliques and power. Rather than constantly object and insert themselves into every moment, they eventually morph into fully human beings. They add harmony to the space where they live rather than furiously grasp for their portions of every matter of existence. I pray for that always.
In today’s reading, Jesus begins the formation of his disciples into apostles. He coaxes them, corrects them, and pleads with them to know who he is and to be unafraid to spread his message. His efforts are met with mixed results, like raising children into adulthood.
Mark reports the telltale moment of that training almost three years later. Jesus wept openly to his disciples when entering Jerusalem. It’s not the proud weeping of a parent seeing their children leave home. Jesus wept for all those in Jerusalem that he was not able to reach.
His task of forming the apostles had almost finished, and he saw the entire Jewish nation ahead. He called out to the city below him, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace.” He said the way to peace was to recognize who he is. If the Jewish people had only recognized him and accepted his humble yet confident kingship of the universe, peace would have reigned.
Jesus brings peace to those of us who recognize his coming, us crying out Hosanna, us tearful, wonderfully gracious, that he has chosen to visit our lives. Jesus stands alone in bringing about peace. There is no other way to get it. Jesus taught us this axiom, and most of us know it is true. We don’t always act as if we believe. We get what Jesus proclaimed as the result of not recognizing him.
The parade heralding Jesus into Jerusalem took place for many reasons, but for us, it is a metaphor for the divine reality of God becoming man for us. Here I am, he said. He showed us a life of obedience, how to love, and how to give. His ride into Jerusalem matches his riding into our lives. It is a nonstop arrival, a consistently loving, “Hello, I’m home!” Some children experience this, but all adults need to hear him call to us.
Jesus brings peace to those of us who recognize his coming, us crying out Hosanna, us tearfull, wonderfully gracious, that he has chosen to visit our lives. Jesus stands alone in bringing about peace. There is no other way to get it. Jesus taught us this axiom, and most of us know it is true. We don’t always act as if we believe. We get what Jesus proclaimed as the result of not recognizing him.
Do we praise Jesus’ presence among us, grateful he visits us, or do we fret that he’s an embarrassment, a fool on a donkey, and a danger to the established norms and compromises of our societies?
According to Jesus, anything short of accepting his visit to our hearts, homes, cities, nations, and even our world, will result in cataclysmic destruction. No Jesus, no peace. We choose for him to be in charge, or we head to the big tent with glitzy marketing and fancy lights and pay half a day’s wage to get in. We go to the wrong show.
Peace with Jesus in charge of our lives is a continual imaginary existence beyond the horizon. If we don’t see his return as inevitable, we don’t imagine the genuinely wonderful. Jesus is the real deal, or he’s a weirdo on a donkey.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could recognize the time when Jesus visits us? Instead of heading for the big, shiny tent, shouting for the defeat of our enemies, we would remain in the real world and hail Jesus as the king, the Lord of all creation. The reality of his divine existence can strike us if we step away from the maddening crowd.
Does our obedience and community training stop when we are no longer children? Is there an adult version of becoming martyrs, living as Jesus calls us? Of course, there is.
We would do well to practice the art of little acts of martyrdom like children, building up our courage and readiness for God’s visitation. We can practice every minute of our lives, not just welcoming Jesus but hollering hello, waving across the parking lot to our friends where Jesus is visiting, and exclaiming that peace is here amid the violence of the insane and the deceived.
We practice recognizing the divine presence everywhere because the peace of God lives in us, and peace is worth giving up our lives, giving them to Jesus.