Rev. Carolyn Stephens
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
Willing to Enter the Arena
There he is, beaten, bruised, and wounded, lifted high for all to see!
Is this the same one for whom the crowd of people had shouted “Hosanna,” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord?” Is it for him they had strewn their cloaks on the ground before him as he rode into Jerusalem?
What could he have done to be stretched out on a rugged, wooden cross, usually reserved for those who have committed serious crimes?
Today is Good Friday! The journey of Lent has led to the cross. The entry into Jerusalem was just the precursor for what was to happen. We knew it when we started at Ash Wednesday. We knew it when we got to Palm Sunday and heard again the narrative of Jesus’ welcome into the city by the crowds. We knew it as we read the retelling of the Last Supper. We knew it, for we have read and heard the story many times to know what will happen.
Notwithstanding, it is always such a shock to our system. No matter how many times we have read the narrative, or how many times we have heard the story!
Today we are faced with the truth that entering the arena of life can lead to suffering, and even the laying down of our lives.
Jesus is hanging on the cross because of the choices he made, even when he knew the consequences. He chose to preach and live the way of God’s love and kingdom – a way of life that is countercultural to the way of the world. He is on the cross because he chose to heal the sick – even on the Sabbath, to welcome and include the outcast, the marginalized, the oppressed, and the “sinner,” and to make it known that God loves all peoples. He is there because he chose to defy the regimented laws and beliefs of the religious sect about what persons should or should not do to be worthy of God’s love. He is hanging on the cross because he lived a radical way of love that conflicted with the way of the powers that be.
Today, as we gaze intently at the cross, seeing the beaten, bruised, and wounded body of our Savior, may we realize the truth that there is an ongoing battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. May we realize that whether we know it or not, we all participate in this ongoing battle. And may we realize that the choices we make each day determine which of the kingdoms we participate in, and to which we give our allegiance.
And above all, may we be willing to enter the arena to do what is right, and just, and merciful, because our Savior and Lord did it for each of us.