When I was a child my family spent many weekends and holiday times traveling to visit my grandmother. The trip really wasn’t very long – it usually took about two-and-a-half hours – unless of course the traffic was backed up on the Merritt Parkway or the New England Thruway. But with my sister and brother and me all sitting in the single back seat, it could often feel very long and boring. And of course we would often ask, “Are we there yet?” Classic; I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience.
Lent can be a little like that – a long haul, starting with Ash Wednesday. And it was a long haul for Jesus, traveling from Galilee to the outskirts of Jerusalem – teaching, healing and praying as he went, gathering followers who were intrigued or moved or impassioned or just plain curious.
But the journey to Jerusalem was no family holiday or religious excursion – travel and accommodations had not been arranged by Solomon’s Temple Tours, Inc. Jesus went to Jerusalem to fulfill his mission, to live out his vocation as the Messiah, God’s Anointed One, the One through whom God’s purposes for his people would be accomplished.
It was a long trip - spiritually and emotionally, as well as physically. Over the course of his public ministry the full awareness of who he was and what he was called to do grew and developed as Jesus renewed, healed, restored, fed, chastised and challenged the disciples who were the representative nucleus of God’s people. And once Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem, and to the confrontation with the powers-that-be (political, religious, and ultimately spiritual), there was no turning back; there was only going on until the destination was reached.
Are we there yet? Yes. We are here. We have traveled with Jesus, we have paused on the Mount of Olives as the donkey was found, we have made the descent down through the Kidron Valley and up the other side by the steep and rocky road to the gates of the city – cheering and acclaiming Jesus as King at every step of the way. And we have arrived at the Temple. God has come in person to claim, cleanse and restore his own at the very center of earthly and heavenly power.
This is what the people have longed for since ancient times. This is what we have longed for; remember our prayer back in Advent: Prepare the way of the Lord? In the desert make a highway for our God? Our Advent prayer comes to fruition in Jesus’ arrival at the Temple. But there is no immediate coronation, no welcome and enthronement: “Hail, King Jesus! Come right in, we will all step aside and let you have your rightful place as Sovereign and Lord.” No one says: “We will gladly give up our power, our rule, and surrender to you what is truly yours.”
Are we surprised? We shouldn’t be. We have a hard enough time letting Jesus be in charge of us, even when we claim to be his followers. How much more disdain and anger and furious resistance is there from the powers that are based on control, gain, violence and falsehood masquerading as truth? These powers were not limited to the first century, the Temple priesthood, the Roman government or the Judean aristocracy. These are the powers that oppose God and God’s Kingdom and God’s Messiah in every age – including our own; they keep on taking different forms and shapes and hues, but they are the same powers.
And Jesus comes to meet them face on, not as they expect with full battle array, but with the power of humility – the humility that began with God being born as a vulnerable infant, living fully the life that we live. Jesus comes into our lives, our neighborhoods, our Church, our Jerusalem and we acclaim him, we cheer him on: he is our King, God’s Anointed, Emmanuel –God-with-us. But cheering by itself leaves us on the sidelines.
If we welcome Jesus as King into the Temple of our hearts and our homes and our world, then we must be prepared to let him be King – a living Lord, and not a pretty plaster statue. And that means letting God have the last word, and not the powers-that-be. Letting God have the last and best and true word about our values, our decision-making, our political commitments, our service to others, our care for creation – our whole lives and the life of the world.
Jesus is King. We have made the journey with him and we have arrived; we are there.
Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven! Amen.
Victoria Geer McGrath
All Saints’ Church, Millington, NJ
Palm Sunday: The Sunday of the Passion
March 24, 2013