Sunday, March 25, 2018

Palm Sunday--Into Jerusalem

I've self-published two mini-novels. The first looks at Jesus' birth through the eyes of the archangel Gabriel.

I have just finished the second in time for Passion Week. It looks at Jesus' earthly ministry, death, and resurrection through Gabriel's eyes. Of course this is a novella, so I paint a possible world, not necessarily the way it actually happened.

As today is Palm Sunday, here is an excerpt from that part of the novel:
Early Sunday morning, Jesus sent Thaddeus and Bartholomew to Bethphage to get a donkey colt. Lazarus had already arranged for the colt to be available. Jesus knew what he was doing. This was the day he would enact the words of the prophet Zechariah.

The image in Zechariah was paradoxical. On the one hand, it spoke of Jerusalem’s king, righteous and victorious, riding on a donkey. It spoke of encamping at the Temple, guarding against the oppressors overrunning God’s people. Jesus knew the Romans would obviously come to mind.

And yet this king in Zechariah came to take away the warhorses and the warrior’s bow from Jerusalem. This king was a Prince of Peace. This king would bring peace to the nations.

Judas would reflect deep and hard on Zechariah for the first couple days of the week. Some later verses would stick out in his mind: “Then the LORD will appear over them.” Satan would use that Scripture to manipulate Judas’ mind and try to destroy Jesus.

In Bethphage, they did indeed find a young colt tied up in one of the pathways. As they began to untie it just after dawn, its owner came out to ask them what they were doing. It was the signal Lazarus had agreed on with the owner. “The Lord has need of it.”

All over Bethany and Bethphage there was an excitement. Lazarus had told his friends that Jesus had finally revealed himself as the Messiah. He was going to march triumphantly into Jerusalem that very day.

The rumor was, even among his disciples, that God was going to break forth the heavens that very day and reveal Jesus as the Son of Man. God was going to overthrow the Romans that very day without Jesus even lifting a finger. The word had traveled all over the two villages, and the people all planned to go with him.

Jesus of course had said none of these things, except that he was in fact the Messiah. Instead, he had repeatedly told his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem to die. They simply did not believe him. They did not have ears to hear. Everyone wanted a triumphant king, not a suffering servant.

So as Jesus and his disciples started their way toward Jerusalem, a crowd began to collect around him. Lazarus had been thinking of the psalm that says, “Open to me the gates of righteousness.” The Lord blessed him with the psalm.

He kept meditating the whole night before. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

That morning, his mind was fixed on, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” As they re-entered Bethphage, John Lazarus was near the front. Spontaneously, he shouted out, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

When they were half-way through the village, he shouted it again, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Several of the disciples shouted in return, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

As they climbed over the Mount of Olives, whenever they would approach someone or a group of people, Lazarus would shout, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” and the crowd accumulating around Jesus would shout it back. There were now at least three dozen people around Jesus, people not only from Bethany and Bethphage but who joined along the way.

Bystanders would ask, “Who is that man?” And the crowd would say, “It is Jesus, the one who has been healing and casting out demons in Galilee. He is the Messiah!” Then they would drop whatever they were doing and start following him.

“We need to do something to honor his entrance into the eastern gate,” Bartholomew said. “What can we do?”

“We could lay down palm branches,” Mary Magdalene finally said, “like we do for the Feast of Tabernacles.” To John Lazarus, Bartholomew, and Mary, it seemed like they were coming up with these ideas on their own. But it was the Holy Spirit. I could see it. They were being inspired to say these words and do these actions that would be celebrated for the rest of time.

The donkey moved slowly but steadily. Down the west side of the Mount of Olives, across the valley and up to the Eastern Gate. Then he entered the city.

“Hosanna to the king,” Lazarus shouted. “Blessed is the man who comes in the name of the Lord.” And the crowd would repeat the saying with a shout. They were very expectant, although Jesus did not pay them much attention.

The Temple was right there in front of the Eastern Gate. Jesus slowly made his way to the front steps, with the people shouting the whole way. Then he finally got off the donkey.

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