It’s no use getting all excited and shouting and cheering for Jesus, if the Jesus you are shouting and cheering for is the wrong one!
Today is Palm Sunday and we are celebrating Jesus entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, with the crowds spreading their cloaks before him and waving palm branches in celebration. In choosing such a public arrival in Jerusalem riding on a young donkey, Jesus was enacting a highly symbolic act – effectively he was claiming to be the Messiah.
The crowd certainly didn’t miss this. They were desperate for a leader who would come and get rid of the hated Roman colonialists and re-establish the ancient royal line of king David. So, they came out in huge numbers and celebrated the arrival of the coming king. Except that Jesus wasn’t the King they expected. The first clue might have come when Jesus arrived in sight of the city of Jerusalem. Rather than crying out in triumph as a military leader might have been expected to do, Jesus wept and predicted the coming destruction of the city. Hardly the stuff you would expect from a coming revolutionary leader!
Over the next week, Jesus was very busy. He fought and argued with the Jewish leaders and even taught that people should pay their taxes to Rome. The one thing he didn’t do was lead an insurrection against Rome. Less than a week after his arrival in the city, another crowd had gathered, probably including some of the people who had welcomed him to the city. But this crowd wasn’t there to praise Jesus, they were baying for his blood: ‘Crucify Him’, they cried.
The crowd welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem got it wrong. They were welcoming someone who fulfilled their wishes, not the real person who had come to suffer, die and rise again. And when the wrong Jesus didn’t do what they wanted, they rejected him. And so the story carries on, down through the years people have crafted their own versions of Jesus and in every case the ‘wrong Jesus’ has been found to be wanting.
The real Jesus does not let us down, but we have to accept his agenda, not squeeze him into ours.