“The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
“Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.’” – John 12:12-19 (ESV)
This isn’t an original sentiment. Far from it. Still, it bears repeating: we have our holidays backwards. Culturally speaking, everybody loves Christmas (or, as the world prefers to call the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, “the holidays”*). Christmas gets celebrated with great abandon and historical inaccuracy that makes the notion of Columbus discovering America and George Washington chopping down an cherry tree look like fact.
By comparison, Easter seems to come and go without as much notice. But – as Christians – shouldn’t Holy Week be commemorated and celebrated with an even greater fervor than Christmas? I mean, talk about gift giving…
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” – John 3:16-21 (ESV)
You can’t buy salvation at Amazon.com, ship it, wrap it up and toss it under a tree. “Billy, what’d you get for Christmas?” “A new fire truck! What’d you get, Tommy?” “Eternal Life!” “Cool! Is that for PS3 or Xbox?”
The problem (as if we have only one problem) – and I am speaking culturally here – is the same problem that existed 2000 years ago.
We just don’t get it.
If you roll your eyes upward from your Bible a bit when reading the opening passage, you’ll see John 12:9, where we learn why “the large crowd of Jews” had gathered in the first place. “They came not only on account of (Jesus) but also to see Lazarus” (ESV). They came to see the formerly dead guy, and the man who had raised him. They were amazed, they were astounded. They were looking for a Messiah who would overthrow the government and take over.
But they just didn’t get it. These were the same people who, by week’s end, would be calling for Christ’s execution. Some came for the curiosity. Some came for the show.
Many of us come for the show. I believe God calls us where we are. Our problem, as I said, is the same as the first century Jews’ problem: we come with our ideas, our preconceived notions, our God-in-a-box, our hopes of Who we want Him to be. And then discover that he is Someone quite different than our creation of who God should be. In truth, He is far greater than we could ever imagine.
Take a moment and read John 12 for yourself. These people could not see Jesus for Who He is. They declared him King of Israel. We get so wrapped up in our earthly lives that we do not truly stop to see Jesus in eternal terms. Not like we should. We understand the concept (to varying degrees), but we want to simply apply what we know of God to our pains and needs in the here-and-now. And – do not misunderstand me – we need to do that! We need to see God at work in our lives, meeting our needs and the needs of others, caring for His people, loving us, guiding us, directing us… But we also need to have an appreciation and right understanding of the eternal God. This life is a blink of the eye in comparison to eternity. And God spans all of eternity!!
Here is my point: I am thankful there is no Easter tree. I’m not prepared to skin the Easter Bunny, but I think we need to be far more thoughtful and reflective about Holy Week. Not just the celebration of Easter, but the events of the week. Try to figure out the depth of what it means that God became man, walked amongst us, and died for our sins that we may have eternal life. Understand how, in less than a week, the palm-waving throng of admirers would turn on Jesus. Understand how Peter, who had walked intimately – perhaps most intimately of the twelve – with Jesus for three years, could turn his back on His Savior by denying Him three times in one night.
I’ll be prayerfully spending the week in the last 10 chapters of John, asking the Lord for a deeper, more meaningful walk with Him. This week more than any other, I sense a deeper desire – need – for more of God in my life. This week is the perfect time for us to seek Christ in our lives, and seek a deeper understanding of what Jesus did for us, what it means to be a Christian, and what we each need to surrender in order to see Him more clearly.
*By the way, this week (Holy Week) is also Earth Week. Anyone else see the irony there?