He Comes Anyway
When Jesus and his disciples had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, `The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Many of the people sitting in churches around this country, including me, are a bunch of halfhearted, fair weather, lukewarm Christians, who like to play church. Many of us give God about ninety minutes a week at most, and not a few of us complain either silently or aloud that those ninety minutes ought to be closer to sixty or else they will mess up our afternoon plans. All the clergy, including me, go through periods when we are at best half-hearted Christians, lukewarm in our faith. We may love the job, but I wonder how many of us spend much of our time only playing church – running on a never-ending treadmill to keep an institution alive, an institution the world finds increasingly irrelevant. The truth is, we don’t in any way deserve to be associated with the God/man who gave his life because he believed in love more than he treasured living.
But Christ comes anyway. He rides right into town and then walks all the way to the cross. He knows these truths about you and me, these truths about churches, people, and priests and yet he keeps on coming. All of us with our half-hearted belief systems, selfish motives, indifferent attitudes, and self-absorbed lifestyles – he sees us all. Two thousand years ago or the day before yesterday, it doesn’t matter, the people are the same. They are us and we are them. There we stand cheering him along the road waving our palms. We stand around on Golgotha too, gaping at the man who wouldn’t even stand up for himself and fight, wondering if there is anything to see as we watch him die. He knows us.
We are all as guilty as sin and yet he comes anyway. He gives his life to die on the cross – because he loves us. He loves us! And he says – I will do for you what you cannot do for yourselves. I will lead you back to God. We can’t know the real power of this day until we have been convicted of our sin. I, who call myself a Christian, fall so short of the glory of God and yet God loves me anyway. I, who call myself a priest, can be so very unfaithful and yet Christ still dies for me. Jesus says, don’t try and put a good face on it. I know how dark and ugly it can be sometimes be inside your soul. I have seen it with my own eyes. Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial – I have seen your underbelly and I know no matter how hard you try, left to your own devices you will never really change. There will still be ugliness, indifference, cruelty, prejudice, hypocrisy, and selfishness, no matter what you do. You are not capable of freeing yourself from this mess – without me.
For that reason, because I love you, I am going to die for you, bearing your shame. And I don’t just do it once, two thousand years ago, I do it over and over and over again. I have born the shame of humanity so that humanity might be something more. I have sunk to the depths of human depravity that I might lift human beings closer to God. We don’t deserve him, but he comes anyway. Thanks be to God – he comes anyway. Amen.
Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer p.219)