Today is Palm Sunday, the prelude to Holy Week. Truly, I think, the story is almost too familiar to us—Jesus riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey, and the crowd laying down branches and cloaks before him shouting “Hosanna!” as he passed by. It was good to be reminded today during prayers that Christ entered the city at once as the long-awaited Messiah, and yet as a savior that was almost unrecognizable to the expectations of the Jewish crowd that day. Instead of (as the subheadings always say) the triumphal entry of a warrior or king, Christ comes in on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Instead of a sweeping overthrow of Rome, he dies at the hands of their military-industrial complex.
As I happen to be reading this week a book entitled Simply Jesus, this unexpected truth has been well-driven into my mind:
Somehow, Jesus’s death was seen by Jesus himself, and then by those who told and ultimately wrote his story, as the ultimate means by which God’s kingdom was established. The crucifixion was the shocking answer to the prayer that God’s kingdom would come on earth as in heaven…That is why, in John’s gospel, the ‘glory of God’—with all the echoes of the anticipated return of YHWH to Zion—is revealed in and through Jesus, throughout his public career, in the ‘signs’ he performed, but fully and finally as he is ‘lifted up’ on the cross.
The kingdom mission of Jesus was, as the author says, shocking. As Paul says, it confounds the wisdom of the world, it is utter foolishness. The one who would be Israel’s Messiah could never be the one who rides into Jerusalem in humility, and could never be the one who is crushed by Rome as the head of another failed political coup. And yet, God has used the weak things of this world to shame the strong.
This is a worthwhile truth for us to remember as we seek to preach the word in Nakaale. We go out equipped not with great development projects or huge grants or trucks full of food relief, but with the weak and pitiful word of God. And yet, we have been reminded today that Jesus’ humble entry into Jerusalem became the commencement to the event which is the hinge upon which history swings, the centerpiece of God’s plan for the cosmos.
In that spirit, it was a tremendous blessing today to receive Moru Judith, the wife of another member, into our fellowship (along with an announcement that another will be received next week). We were blessed to baptize three covenant children as well. These all have signed on to participate in Jesus’ (seemingly) insane revolutionary ideas and to teach them to their children. Their testimonies bear witness to the fact that, in being ‘lifted up,’ Christ has indeed drawn all men to himself. By being crucified in weakness, he has ushered in God’s kingdom on earth. They declare that the feeble proclamation of the Gospel is powerful to make subjects for king Jesus.
When we pray, as we did today, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” (as it should always be prayed, without a comma or pause after the word ‘done’) we ought to remember that Palm Sunday 2013 in Nakaale, Karamoja is the unexpected shape of God’s answer to that prayer.