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  • Writer's pictureChurch of the Incarnation

Jesus's Lack of Entitlement

This morning we hear once again, of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem where he asks his disciples to go and bring him a colt. Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem with waving palms is both a fulfillment of God’s promise to his people first heard through his prophet Zechariah, and a short-lived preview of the eternal Palm Sunday to come we read or hear in God’s revelation to John, when God gathers everyone to him. So this particular moment in history is both a fulfillment and preview of what is to come that forces us to ask two key questions: first, who is this Jesus who fulfills Zechariah’s prophecy? And second, what does this mean for us?

So to our first question: who is this Jesus? Let us be clear, this was not a “great man”, this Jesus of Nazareth. Not “great” as we use the term normally, after all, he came riding into Jerusalem, not on a war horse, but on, according to the OT and unclean animal, a colt. But let us put this in our terms. Was he great as we understand greatness? Well, he didn’t write anything, he didn’t change a political order, he didn’t make a fortune, he was hardly a celebrity, at most a brief nuisance. He had no spouse and left no children. He didn’t even leave behind a house for his widowed mother. He died young. You can say that he ended up by being highly influential – although that took decades, even centuries to become clear. You could even say he was God, and that is “great” indeed. But as a human being, a human life, he was far less than most of us here – we who have homes, or children, or money, or years under our belts. He was “less” as we measure things anyway. Yet, we are told, he is the measure of our human life.

Why? Because he fulfills the very purpose for which all human beings were created as we hear in Hebrews: “See, God, I have come to do your will”. This is the first, and greatest commandment: to love God. That is my meaning. I have come – that is, I am here, I am alive, I take hold of the gift of my life, for this reason and this purpose: to do your will, O God. That is all, and it is everything.

I want to emphasize this remarkable reality. It is spoken of over and over again in the Scriptures, especially in John’s Gospel: Jesus says of himself, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but only what he sees the Father do” (Jn. 5:19); “I command only what the Father has given me to command” (Jn. 14:31); “I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (Jn. 5:30). See God! I come to do your will. I am “sent”, and therefore I am bound to you, and all that I am is from you and aims at you and is sustained by you. I come to do your will. “He was obedient, even unto death” (Phil. 2:8).

So when we look at Jesus, we see a human being whose whole purpose in life is doing the will of God. And if you ask, “well, what is that will of God?”, we can answer: look at such a life as His! Look at Jesus, and see the will of the Father and the will of Son made one! And what do we see? Not a life of gathering, of producing, or of establishing. But a life driven by what drives God himself, a life driven by the desire to give himself, an “offering once and for all” (Heb. 10:10).

Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem did not take the form of rulership as won by might and power, but rather, as prophesied in Zechariah, it would take the form of humble self sacrifice in which the king, the messiah, would shed his own blood so that others might have new life in and through this act.

To our second question we go: what does this revelation of who Jesus is and what he does, mean for us? In short, it means that to live a truly human life, we too are asked to give ourselves up to God and to one another as the way of living out our daily lives. This is the way of the cross. As we begin to grasp our true purpose, a purpose that involves letting go and following Christ, our priorities, and our way of engaging in relationships will indeed change. And it is as this change plays out over time – as we rethink what we prioritize and whether our words and actions are self-serving, or whether they serve God and others – that we are joined to those who, through time, have sung out hosannas of praise and worship.

As we follow this one true human life of Jesus, revealed to us in Scripture, our lives are made by God, or knitted by God, into something that transcends, that is, a reality that is bigger than what we see, or know, bigger than what we can control or predict. This is why we offer ourselves: for our own lives, given up to God, are the way that we take part, and that we can know that we are taking part in allowing other people to see, hear, and take hope, solace, and seek healing in God. That is why our sacrifices of our whole lives to God are so vital: so that all may join in singing out hosannas, so that all might find the love and hope that fuel faith, hope, joy and peace.

And so it is that we exist to share with someone; we exist to give away ourselves to someone; we exist to let go of our demands for the sake of another; we exist to be generous; we exist to leave our lives with nothing, even as we came to them with nothing (Job. 1:21), we exist to move out and away from what we hold. We exist to love. That is all; that is everything. A child, a friend, a spouse, a colleague, a neighbor, a stranger, someone lost, someone close, someone far away. We exist to love. AMEN

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