Posts Tagged ‘Holy Week’

Identity

 

PALM SUNDAY ALWAYS SEEMS LIKE A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY TO ME. Jesus isn’t who I think he is. He never is.

On Palm Sunday we wave palms celebrating, by commemoration, Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We sing “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” And, perhaps, like the folks who gathered at the city gates of Jerusalem 2000 years ago to welcome Jesus, we sometimes imagine Jesus will bring us victory of one sort or another. Maybe he’ll fix what ails us, or get us that job we’ve been praying for, or gift us with some other miracle.

But as it turns out, Jesus was not who the crowds imagined him to be that day of palms and parades. He didn’t fix it for them at all. There were miracles, for sure. But this miracle-man also lost his cool and flipped tables around in their beloved temple. He got himself arrested and flogged. Some of the very same people who had waved palms and chanted “Hosanna” at the city gates, less than one short week later, stood in front of Pilate’s praetorium and shouted “Crucify him!” Were they just fickle in their faith? Or was it a case of mistaken identity? Clearly, Jesus had failed to live-up to their misplaced expectations, at least for the moment.

For me, even as I wave my palm, Palm Sunday is a day to remember that I don’t fully understand Jesus. I’ve studied his word for a lifetime, worshipped him, prayed to him (and, I believe, with him), and I still can’t nail him down. But then again, who could?

Maybe Jesus isn’t something to be grasped like some new life plan, or packaged as a self-help strategy. He’s not to be comprehended like a math solution, or a philosophical concept. Rather, Jesus and his die-on-a-cross love for us and the world are mystery to be lived. Jesus and his cross-shaped loved are not a destination at the end of our spiritual journey, but the journey itself. Jesus and his love for us is mystery that can only be understood by walking in his footsteps, and by carrying the cross of love with him for a little while.

In his book, Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner says that best mysteries are not to be solved but to be lived. “And you do that not by fully knowing yourself, but by fully being yourself. To say that God is a mystery is to say that you can never nail him down. Even on Christ the nails proved ultimately ineffective.”

As you journey through these final days of Lent, preparing for Holy Week – Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and then on into the glory-filled season of Easter, I invite you to join me in living the mystery, not by trying understand Jesus but simply by being with Jesus. That’s when real miracles start to happen. That’s when the healing truly begins.

Don’t worry about grasping his version of love, just live it. Find your moments to be still with him in prayer and worship, and to look for him right beside you. He’s there. Allow his cross-shaped love to overflow from within your heart. The case of mistaken identity – yours and his, gets resolved as we work less at knowing Jesus fully, and more at fully being with him.

Love,
Mark

A powerful Good Friday Message of honesty and hope from Rev. Dr. R. Mark Giuliano of the Old Stone Church (First Presbyterian Church, Cleveland) in Downtown Cleveland, followed by a haunting solo of “Were You There” and the Offering of Nails. God bless you all this dark Friday.

Leonard Cohen quote“I lost my way, I forgot to call on your name. The raw heart beat against the world, and the tears were for my lost victory. But you are here. The world is all forgetting, and the heart is a rage of directions, but your name unifies the heart, and the world is lifted into its place. Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller’s heart for his turning.”

– Leonard Cohen