We feel like we deserve a warring king, but got a donkey riding one. We deserved a hollow religious exercise but got a divine revelation, and as the week progressed, the people felt pretty certain…
They Deserved a Passover Meal, and instead got a Passover Lamb—The people were in town for Passover, went to the temple to buy their sacrifice, get their meat, the blood captured by the priests in honor of the blood spread on the doorposts, but the week was all building towards the meal (Matthew 26:17-19,26-28) 17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover…26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this cup of the vine from now on until the day when I drink of it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.These passages are familiar for anyone who has grown up in the church, we sometimes read them before the communion, but we can forget they were the highlights of the Passover meal. Throughout the night, it was customary to take four commemorative drinks—to remember the four promises of God in Exodus—I will take you out, I will set you free, I will redeem you, and I will take you (as my own)-exit from slave land, set free from slave nature, redeemed-washed clean from stain of Egypt, and finally united with God—a protected people. Yet, notice Jesus refuses to drink from the final cup—the night ends without Jesus drinking from the cup of protection—The disciples, people all around Jerusalem were enjoying their Passover meal, but here Jesus left dinner to become the Passover Lamb—to give his sinless life, unblemished being to die on the cross for us God’s judgment to pass over our homes, our lives, and our beings.
John the Baptist had rightly looked at Jesus as he walked past him and declared, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. In his book Written In Blood, Robert Coleman tells the story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor explained that she had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance for recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor. “Would you give your blood to Mary?” the doctor asked. Johnny hesitated. His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled and said, “Sure, for my sister.” Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room–Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned. As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny’s smile faded. He watched the blood flow through the tube. With the ordeal almost over, his voice, slightly shaky, broke the silence. “Doctor, when do I die?’ Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated, why his lip had trembled when he’d agreed to donate his blood. He’s thought giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. In that brief moment, he’d made his great decision. Johnny, fortunately, didn’t have to die to save his sister. Each of us, however, has a condition more serious than Mary’s, and it required Jesus to give not just His blood but His life.(Thomas Lindberg.)
As Pope Benedict rightly declared, “Palm Sunday tells us that the cross is the true tree of life.” It was in Jesus’ willingness to be broken, that we find our opportunity to be made whole! It was in Christ’s ability to bear God’s judgment that we found his grace. When our sin separates us from God, from each other, we don’t need a warring army, we don’t need a religious experience, we don’t need a Passover meal—we need a king who rides a donkey, an encounter with Immanuel, and a lamb that would be slain. Do you want what you deserve or are you ready to embrace what God desires for you? Thankfully, through Christ—we get what we don’t deserve—that is Good News!