If your churches are anything like the churches I grew up in, there will be a whole lot of palm leaves this Sunday being waved by (loud) singing children. There will be a tone of celebration and jubilee as worship services try to replicate what is recorded in the gospels. But I wonder if we’re moving too fast over the “uncomfortable” in the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry and thus missing out on a very important (albeit ‘uncomfortable’) lesson about kingship and worship.
Luke’s account of this story informs the reader of emotions running high from the crowds of joyous Jews while Jesus remains a sad and sorrowful killjoy. Why the contrast? It seems that what is going on (this “worship” of Jesus) will ultimately be short-lived, that them pledging their lives to Jesus in allegiance is really a superficial bowing of the knee. Any “worship” will be short lived as (many of?) these same folks will cry out for Jesus’ slave’s (or terrorist’s) death on a cross. Perhaps Jesus can see right through them. Perhaps he knows that they don’t want his agenda of turn the other cheek but rather an agenda of crush the dogs ruling over us! (In total fairness, if I were in their position I would also not want someone telling me to just “take” it; I would prefer a macho “Mark Driscoll” type Jesus who punches first and asks questions never.)
While it seems that the crowds are worshiping Jesus, they really just want something out of him (liberation from Rome). While it seems that they are pledging their lives in service to Jesus as Messiah-king, they have their own list of demands, i.e. they’re not really giving up power to Jesus as subjects of kings/rulers are expected to do.
This story reveals an ugly uncomfortable truth; that on Sundays we can be lifting our hands and bending our knee to Jesus as our king, and yet the Jesus we are worshiping could be one made in our own image. That we may express jubilant and pious expressions and yet really (subconsciously) hold onto our own list of demands for our so-called “king” and “Lord.” Last I checked kings and lords call the shots, not those under them. Kingship and worship both require the dethroning of our wills and the giving up of power to an other. This requires the giving up of rights, something that can be foreign to our American DNA.
Takeaway # 1: Do We Mold Jesus Into Our Own Image? (Does Jesus look more like you he does the Jesus of the gospels? Does he align with your agenda, whatever it may be?)
Takeaway # 2: Is our Worship of Jesus Short Lived? Our Bowing of the Knee Simply a Ploy to Get What we Want? (Do we maintain our own “list of demands?”)