We celebrated Palm Sunday today – which begins the final week of the earthly life of Jesus as He entered Jerusalem on a donkey. The palm branches were laid down in His path and people waved as He passed by. Of course, as we know, virtually every event in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy.
But the life of Jesus had also been counter-intuitive. The Jews expected a king on a white horse, leading them into battle and vanquishing their enemies for all time. Instead, they got a human baby, in a manger, seemingly helpless and unable to fend for Himself. However, the yet to be born John the Baptist leapt with joy when Mary, the mother of Jesus, announced His impending birth to Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John at the time.
From the earliest of ages, Jesus impressed the rabbis and religious leaders with His knowledge of God and often referred to God as “my Father…” Jesus even taught in the temple and performed His first miracle at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, at which time He announced that “my time had not yet come.”
Clearly, Jesus was on a mission – one He was sent to do on behalf of His Father. And Jesus was misunderstood… even the apostles and crowds that followed Him did not really understand who He was. In seminary, it is customary to study what is referred to as the “upside down kingdom.” This means that however we expect things to happen, Jesus generally expects us to do something very different from our human default setting.
In the story of the restoration of Peter, Jesus, in the Greek, admonishes us in His illustration to feed our young people the word of God, to hold accountable our older people (parents and elders) and then teach that same generation only after everything else has been accomplished. This is far different from our earthly tendency to take care of ourselves first, not worry so much about holding ourselves accountable and then teaching our young with whatever time and resources are left over. Get it? It’s the upside down kingdom.
Or how about the arrival of the the baby Jesus instead of the king on a white horse vanquishing all enemies – once again, the upside down kingdom at work. Loving your enemies, feeding the poor and caring for the marginalized before ourselves, these are all expectations of Jesus and are counter intuitive to us – especially in the times we are witnessing today.
The ultimate illustration of the upside kingdom was when Jesus was given a crown of thorns as He was led to the cross. Because that crown, in conjunction with the message nailed to the top of the cross proclaiming Him as “King of the Jews” was the coronation of Jesus as He prepared to die for the sins of everyone. How different from our human interpretation of what a king would encounter on His coronation day! A most humiliating death, on a cross, when Jesus “breathed His last” even leads us to believe, in the original Greek, that Jesus picked the time of His death and later resurrected Himself – but that’s food for another post…
The life of Jesus, his death and resurrection were all unexpected. The miracles He performed were beyond understanding except for the fact that He was, and is, God. His entire life was a study in contradictions – the unexpected becoming the norm and the last who became first – all illustrations of the upside down kingdom. And now, Jesus sits on the throne in heaven with His Father – still an advocate for each of us.
Our verse for this evening is the one that we studied in church this weekend, as part of a wonderful message on the coming of the Messiah, the “anointed One.” The apostle John, in John 12:17-19, tells us, referring to when Jesus entered Jerusalem marking of the start of what we celebrate as Holy Week, “Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
My encouragement tonight is that Jesus sacrificed His life for the sins of the world – that means all of us… My prayer is that as we ponder the events of the last week of the life of Jesus before His resurrection, we will be thankful for all the things that Jesus did in His upside down kingdom – clearing the way for us to spend eternity with Him. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…