Today we celebrate Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into
Somehow I’m sure that Jesus knew the irony, even as he participated in it. The crowd praised someone who had become the focus of their own visions and expectations. A good many of them expected him to lead a revolt against the Romans. At the very least they saw a ruler, on his way to a throne—a real-time throne, that would change their tiresome and oppressive situation.
He knew that his kingship was of another order entirely. But he let them sing and throw down their branches. Their words described reality, sure enough, just not the reality they were envisioning.
Praise always brings expectations with it. When someone praises my work or your work, it’s because he or she imagines that work as fitting their own vision of what the world should be. Finally, here is someone who will help the church straighten up. Finally, here is someone who will speak the truth to those pro-abortionists. Finally, here is someone who will clean up the mess and make us feel better. Finally. We are always waiting for a messiah to come riding in to town. We have a list ready for him, of all that he needs to do and say.
And we can’t allow the messiah to be the messiah. He or she must be messiah-like in the fashion that pleases our sensibilities and our political viewpoint. Some of us praise Jesus of Nazareth because he spoke truth to power and challenged the status quo, whether in the religious institution or in the larger culture. Some of us praise Jesus of Nazareth because he was without sin and provides an example of the moral high road. Some of us praise Jesus because he gives us a group to belong to that is always right and, with certainty, on its way to life everlasting. Some of us praise Jesus because, frankly, he’s the only sort of savior we’ve ever known—he is familiar and thus comfortable and thus acceptable.
I must ask myself, what am I expecting of this messiah as I throw down my palm branches? Who am I hoping he will be, and what am I counting on him to do? Chances are, I will be disappointed, because this messiah asks no one’s permission to do what he must do. He is brave enough to disillusion us, even lose our support. He understands that each woman and man must give up a crippled and misled dream, sooner or later.