When Jesus Goes to Town, Take The Wide Screen View

As on the first, this Palm Sunday, Jesus is hot! There are new fangled Pharisees, many in Hollywood, sayin' like their ancestors years ago, "The whole world goes out to him, this Jesus." Look at the paper (movie section). The Passion's gonna pack 'em in this Holy Week. (Book) Folks are flocking to the bookstores, and buyin', even if the story mixes fact and fiction. (The DaVinci Code.) The TV Guide (Guide) will give us Jesus, The Mystery of Jesus, Who Was Jesus and Jesus of Nazareth. (Poor Moses gets a one night showing of the Ten Commandments from 1956.) Yep, Jesus is in. Jesus is profitable. I'm not complainin'. But I do wanna give a little word of counsel. Take the wide screen view! Don't reformat the picture to fit your personal viewing equipment. Stick with the original version. The stuff on the edges helps us understand when Jesus goes to town.

These marvelous (display) DVD's give us a choice. A picture made to fit our TV. It lops the edges off. Or the original, called the wide view. The way the work was made to be seen. Palm Sunday's a time you wanna see the whole big picture. A couple days ago, a lifelong, devoted believer asked me bluntly, "What's the point of Palm Sunday, anyway." No poetry, no piddlin' here goes:

Seen in wide view, Palm Sunday frames what's comin' and why. It's a parable, a lesson we're meant to see, not just to hear. It's Jesus teaching as prophets always do. To our eyes not just our ears. (Move over Mel Gibson, find a seat Franco Zeffirelli. You guys got nothin' compared to the original.) So here's Jesus… goin' to town. But don't settle for a close-up. Use your wide-angle lens. Expand your frame to four corners set big enough to hold all Jesus wants us to see, edge to edge. The donkey, the first corner! It reminds Jesus and the crowd of old prophet Zechariah's days. 'Hard times when it wasn't easy to believe. Like Jesus' times. Like ours. The prophet's people have already seen conquering kings-from-afar coming on some White-Charger-of-a-Horse. They know that means war and worry, misery and not mercy. But… the King who comes on a donkey…comes to sue for peace. Zechariah promises God will send a humble king to lift and restore the people. Well here comes Jesus to act-this-out, right before their eyes! He's saying to them, "See, I'm the one you've been waiting for. And this is my mission: to make peace between you and God!" The gospels tell us nobody's ever ridden this donkey. That's not for the new car smell! No, the point is: this is a holy moment in Jewish tradition (Num.19:2; Deut.21:3, 1Sam.6:7). The unridden beast, like the first born or first fruit, is a gift reserved for Godly use. Jesus uses the donkey to frame a picture of himself as the King whom God has sent! The sight of him on that never-ridden colt moves the people to shout, "Hosanna!" Now we're at the second corner of this picture frame. "Hosanna!" isn't Bible-speak for "Hooray", or "Go Jesus, go Jesus'!" It means "Save now! Save us now." The people's needs are urgent. It's a prayer as old as Psalm 118:25, "Save us, we beseech Thee, O Lord." Its effect is to say, "Let even the angels in-the-highest-heights-of-heaven cry to God, 'Save now!'" [Wm. Barclay] Why does Jesus ride a donkey into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday? So people will remember he wants to clean their hearts. We're at the third corner that frames Palm Sunday. Long memories are well known in this part of the world (even now). Two hundred years before Jesus, the Maccabbees threw out the foreign influences who'd soiled their temple. [They'd offered forbidden pig… on the altar, sacrificed to Zeus, and even desecrated the temple with (literal) prostitutes.] When the Maccabees swept all this away, The Book of Maccabees says, "…they bare branches, and fair boughs, and palms also, and sang psalms unto Him that had given them good success in cleansing His place." (II Macc.10:7) Sound familiar? Corner four. Kings who come to cleanse are greeted with garments laid at their feet. At least from the days of King Jehu, charged by Elisha to clean up Israel's act 850+ years before. (II Kgs.9:13.) I told you these folks had long memories! See why we need a wide screen?

Seen in wide view, Palm Sunday frames the plan that drives Jesus! A plan we too can trust. Jesus got things ready for Palm Sunday in advance. The password, at the ready. The donkey, arranged for. And so forth. But the big picture here is God's bigger plan. Jesus is to make peace between us and heaven from the start. And Jesus chooses to carry out the plan. A day at a time, a step at a time, a donkey-ride at a time. In times of chaos, when our life and faith-life are in chaos, thank God… there's a plan! Anybody here besides me who's watched the news and wondered…? 'Anybody here besides me who's everyday life looks like a choice between a train wreck and a walk to nowhere now and then? Or whose every plan for the day breaks down? Anybody here who feels like, "It's enough to make a freight train take a dirt road home?" 'Anybody here wonder if anybody's in charge, 'cause it sure-as-you're-born isn't you? If any of this fits, Palm Sunday's for you. The point is: God is in charge with a plan prepared. And Jesus in the saddle says somebody's workin' the plan, and the plan's workin'! Jesus is here to bring peace between us and heaven. To make it right between us and God. And once that's right, why… all the rest is just details!

The plan is to speak to our real, urgent, spirit needs. One Friday morning the beep-beep of a truck backing up interrupted my study at 6:45 am. Out the window, I see this trash truck backing up a city block… at about 15 mph! Two guys leap off, pick up the bags, whoosh them into the truck, and go sailing off at double speed. I shook my head. Then it struck me. "Hosanna! Save now, save now!" Palm Sunday is God in Christ come with all speed. 'Making sure no bag of spiritual junk, none of the rotten or rotting stuff that would spoil our lives will be left behind. Jesus comes today to collect it up and take it with him! It's as urgent to him as to us.

The plan is to make us clean. This requires a wider view of the passion. Palm Sunday's deeply personal. Anybody here who doesn't need a little shine today? But it's also about the world Jesus came to save. More than once, Satan, The Tempter, The Evil One (pick a name) tempts Jesus to possess the world. Maybe even from the hillside overlooking Jerusalem while the people cut the palm. [Cf. The Passion] But Jesus keeps choosing to follow the plan. It's to embrace the world, not to own it. And Jesus is determined to do it, holding the world in his hands, one shadowed soul like our very own at a time. See, on Palm Sunday, Jesus doesn't just come into Jerusalem. No, he rides into our town too. He comes for us. Personally. He doesn't just get down off his donkey and get to cleanin' out the temple of the Holy City. He comes to clear out anything that makes our hearts into a den of robbers. 'Anything that makes our hearts an unfit temple to house the Holy Spirit of God. He's here to make our souls a House of Prayer!

'The point of this day? To honor the King of Heaven and bring that Kingdom on earth. That's the wide screen view! That's what we're waitin' for isn't it? From Palm Sunday to Good Friday. From Good Friday to Easter Sunday. Today isn't just about pageantry. Palm Sunday isn't just drama for your momma! Palm Sunday is about God's passion to save us from our sin. It's about Christ's passion to announce the Kingdom-Here-and-Now. Hosanna! It's about folks like us who take the palm on Sunday, but seem to lose our grip on Monday. It's about our need to:
hear him teaching in the temple all week
let him wash our feet, break bread with us, drink from his cup
hear the challenge to stay awake with him at least for one hour
pray 'til the sweat comes and pours like great drops of blood. Palm Sunday, Jesus comes on a donkey, to let us know he'll be walking-on-his-own into the Judgment Hall of Pilate on our behalf. And he'll be needing somebody from the crowd to carry the cross come Friday. And to draw near while they crucify him. And to wait… all the way to Sunday next…'til the stone is rolled away and we run to see the place where they laid him.

Palm Sunday. Take the wide screen view!

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