John 12:12-16 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna![a]” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b] “Blessed is the king of Israel!” 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: 15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”[c] 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.
This moment when the city gathers to welcome the king is surely one of those “selfie” moments, we might say.
If this parade happened here today, a thousand phones and cameras would be frantically snapping away as we all took a selfie pictures with Jesus on his donkey in the background!
This is like a homecoming parade of the victorious winner of the Cricket World Cup, which might be Australia at the end of today.
It must have been a big moment for everyone. He finally looks like the leader we they wanted him to be – and here comes the new king entering the royal city of King David….
We hear that Jesus is the man in charge. He orchestrates the whole thing – or at least allows it to happen. He knows where the donkey is.
He sends his men to get it and tells them how to get it and it all happens according to the King’s command.
The striking thing is that this is so different to what he has allowed up until now. For a change, Jesus does not try to stop the chant of the crowd.
He lets them chant his name and call him THAT name: ‘Messiah’, ‘Saviour’.
He is like a tough uncompromising disciplined coach who now lets it all fly as the clock ticks down to the inevitable Grand Final victory.
The players are joy-filled. The coach allows it to go unchecked. He himself even jumps for joy at the victory, just for a moment.
Is Palm Sunday Palm Sunday because it is signalling the end – the inevitable victory?
Surely the people sense this – thus the Palms and the chant and the adulation. And the thing Jesus allows it.
They so desperately want him to win.
They are desperate for him to be what they think he needs to be – a man of impact, power, political strength, even military might….
In their worries, troubles, injustice, oppressive situation they so want someone to change it for them.
It is just the way they believe it should be done that is way off the mark – or at least nowhere near Jesus and what he knows is needed to make real and lasting change for the better.
But the crowd lays down those palms for the king they think they need. The chants go on unchecked. The band plays on. The selfie snaps go on….. Me in the foreground, Jesus in the background….
Ruth Ostrow, the Lifestyle journalist, for the Australian made some observations about the advent of this “selfie culture” where the subject of the picture is the self, but with a changing background.
She tells the story of herself watching a group of teenagers gather at a lookout of the majestic scene somewhere in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
She observed the teens not really seeing the grand vision of where they were but merely seeing themselves with a different background as they took a million selfie shots!
She wonders, like a growing number of social researchers is wondering if we are creating a “Selfie Armageddon”!
We are wondering that in the FOMO culture – the Fear Of Missing Out culture – we are becoming more and more self-absorbed in the pursuit of living life.
Is this what the “selfie” is really all about – me in the centre with everything and everyone else merely a changing background to my story….
I wonder whether we Christians have caught the selfie disease. I am the prime subject of my own life and Jesus is just the background.
I wonder whether us Christians buy in to the FOMO culture as we look to ourselves and our experiences to find all meaning and feel anxious when we see everyone else looking like they are really living life as we scroll the pages of Facebook?
We don’t want to be seen to be missing out even though by almost complete focus on self we do!
On this parade into the city day, Jesus looks like the leader that we all want to get a “selfie” with so we can post the picture of ourselves with him in the background on Facebook.
We want a man of power, impact, victory, prosperity to lead.
We want the end of suffering without anyone getting hurt.
We want the man who meets all of our needs in a flash, a man of glory without pain, victory without loss, character without testing, hope without doubt, strength without weakness – life to the full without me giving anything and serving anyone else.
And this friends, is our undoing. This is the beginning of the crowds descent that will end in another chant….
The descent into a complete lack of understanding of the man begins when the crowd thinks they have finally understand him!
That’s where the problem always starts – when we think we have got Jesus pegged – put in a box, totally understood, and so, a mere background for our life.
“What kind of Jesus do you really want?” calls the gospel writer to us as we begin holy week again.
“What kind of Jesus do you really want?” – A “Super hero” Jesus only. If we do we will be disappointed..
The crowd will discover the true nature of the man and his claim to be much more than a mere projection of a super human being.
The crowd will eventually be confronted with the claim of this man to be God himself. They will find out within a week that this King is no mere human king but a King above all kings in authority and yet, astonishingly, and even offensively, a king who serves sinners in suffering and pain more than any human king could or would.
There will be no one wanting to take a selfie in week’s time, as this same man is bloodied and battered on the cross – put there to another chant by the same crowd – Crucify him!
What kind of Jesus do we actually need? The “crowd Jesus” or the Servant Jesus?
If we want him to fix everything for us without any waiting,
win everything without any experience of defeat,
heal everything without any experience of illness,
be all shiny and bright without the darkness of suffering and fear and despair we experience in life,
or make us all prosperous without any hard work,
find me a partner in life without any failure or fear,
live this life without risk,
be a church in mission without any struggle,
parent kids without any hassles,
love parents without lots of patience,
have a character of love without the testing of conflict or dislike by which he produces that character within us, we, like the crowd, will move further and further away from knowing him better.
We will just have ourselves as the subject of our “selfie” life and Jesus will be well and truly in the background, if at all.
When he does not act the way we want or do the things we demand we will get cranky with him.
We are very capable of being in this crowd.
We can join in the Hosanna chorus and the chorus of ‘Crucify him’ all in a day, on any given day.
Oh, but friends, he is no “selfie Jesus” at all.
He is the subject of our lives! He is life itself.
By what he is about to do – something no one other than he could do, he will give the world new life so that there will be life without fear of missing out.
Even for the crowd wanting him to be something he is not and do something they don’t actually need, he simply moves on unhindered to complete his mammoth task – to bring an end to the real enemy – death and to bring in the real need – new life in God, Father, Son and Spirit – new community, new hope, new love, new life for misunderstanding human beings in great need of them all.
That unrestrained moment will come within a week for some in the crowd.
We will find ourselves jumping for joy at HIS victory not because we understand him enough, love him enough, work hard enough, or avoid sinning – but because he will serve us enough; he will love us enough.
Friend, ask him to get you ready for who he is and where he is in your life. Leave the Palms here today. They were good. They served the right purpose. They welcomed this King of all kings. We chanted the right words, even if we did not completely understand them – “Hosanna, King of David. God saves us”. It’s a good chant. It will become better.
Put away the selfie king who we make a mere background for our own needs and directions.
As this final countdown to the re-telling of Easter continues, ask the Spirit to open the heart and mind to the real Jesus – the only one, the Suffering, crucified and dying and rising one.
This is the only King and he is no mere background shot. He is over all others and he is crucified and he is victory in death, love in hate, belonging in loneliness, light in darkness.
In these days, come to the servant king as he turns up again for you – not to condemn you but to love you, teach you, shape you in his better way.
There’s nothing better than when Jesus shows up.