A 360 degree look around
9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” 11 And [Jesus] entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. (Mark 11:9-11 ESV)
How do you view the events of Holy Week? Is it like a film screening in your brain and you are in the crowd watching Jesus go by riding a donkey? When you’re imagining the Upper Room, are you viewing the scene through the fourth wall? Is your imagination seeing something similar to da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’? When you get to the crucifixion, are you standing in your imagination in front of Jesus or are you to the side like in our devotional booklet front cover? Anyone standing behind the cross? Does anyone view any of these scenes from the vantage point of a drone, looking down?
Perspective is very important.
We have arrived at Holy Week, the central focus of Christianity, the ‘engine room’ of salvation and we have this strange situation where, and I’m speaking from the perspective of nearly 2,000 years later, God in human form, Jesus as one of us sharing all our limitations, not a Superman, has come to rescue humanity and all of creation and humanity is not understanding him, or hoping he will be a ‘magic genie’ to help us live as we want to live, or opposing him and seeing him as a threat to be eliminated. That’s the ‘big picture’.
The details are always interesting. Jesus is acclaimed king outside of Jerusalem – the donkey, crowds, palm leaves – a symbol by the way of liberation, political liberation – and the cry of ‘Hosanna’ (‘Save us, Lord’ – ‘Help me, Lord!’) gets the atmosphere jumping for a return to the golden age of King David – but what we find inside the capital is tension, politics, scheming, betrayal, corruption, expediency, and death. But on the day itself after Jesus gets off the donkey it is all rather anticlimactic. According to Mark, Jesus goes into the temple courtyard, looks around and then leaves Jerusalem back to Bethany a short distance away with the Twelve. No one mentions the palm leaves now as we imagine Jesus and the disciples walking over them.
What is going on?
I suspect we could say ‘quite a bit of life’. We look around, we assess, we live ordinary lives between the big moments and therefore much of living can seem humdrum or an anti-climax. I remember a Doctor Who episode where the Doctor tells Amy, “Big day tomorrow! Of course, it’s a big day tomorrow I have a time machine. We skip the little ones!” which is fantastic for a TV show but absolutely terrible for living. You see you are precious in God’s sight and so every day is precious – and while some days maybe more momentous than others, all comprise the tapestry of living – and living with God.
Jesus looked around the temple courtyard – and you can read Mark and see what Jesus did there the following day – but for now he looked around and left. This looking around is not sight seeing but assessing, not glancing but analysing. This type of looking is critical in the good and not-so-good sense as when Jesus looked around the synagogue with anger, grieved at the people’s stubbornness about not wanting him to heal the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:5) or when he looked around the crowd pushing in on him for the person who touched him from behind for healing and he kept looking until the woman came forward (Mark 5:32) or when he looked around at his disciples upon the departure of the rich young man and declared how hard it will be for those with wealth to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:23). Critical, grieving, searching, pointing out hard truths is what this sort of looking involves. It is more than the doctor giving you a check up. It is more than a judge trying to
sum up your character by your court appearance. It is Jesus doing a 360 degree appraisal on the people and situations, on the world.
And if Jesus did a 360 degree appraisal of us – not just of the face we show – the mask at times – but a complete appraisal inside and out, thoughts and browser history included, behaviours seen and unseen by others – what would we say?
How dare you?
Who gives you the right?
Hosanna? – Help me, Lord!
The irony is that Jesus and God never learn anything new about us but in the coming close to Jesus, no matter our perspective, we learn about ourselves and we learn about God. That is the powerful nature of this Jesus – not charisma or physical strength – but a determined perseverance – a single mindedness that is all about following God’s will so that people may be helped and saved. We see this Jesus – from any angle – and in understanding him – we encounter grace – that this powerful God is gracious to this world, to us, to you and to me – and his coming to us whether on a donkey or through words, water, bread and wine can often seem anticlimactic – there are no ecstatic experiences, no miracles, no power – but often the same ol, same ol of living in the same relationships in the same homes and with much the same people – and yet, over time, our perspective does change as we learn each day that God is faithful, merciful, gracious, kind, forgiving, helping, strengthening and this perspective does affect us each day as we trust God’s message of our salvation, our rescue, and our life with him.
Yes, our life each day, momentous or not, has Jesus coming to us and he is still looking around – Law and Gospel – because he wants us to live life to the full – and because of what we will remember next Friday and Sunday – Jesus now doesn’t leave but stays even when death comes for nothing can stop Jesus. He is unstoppable. How wonderful that he is for us and not against us – and that means that when we view our life, Jesus is present, hidden, but oh so very real. The faith perspective is everything.
- Mark 11:9 - 11