Sunday, March 20, 2016

My Crowd On The Road

I'm not sure how to do this without coming off as ridiculous, but this week being Holy Week, I want to look at what Jesus was doing each day of this week, roughly 2,000 years ago, and see if it bears any resemblance at all to what I'm going through. It's not about comparing myself to him, or my trials to his. That would be truly ridiculous. For me, it's about identifying with what Jesus did for us that week. And make no mistake, he did it for us.

Today is Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. It's called Palm Sunday because of the palm branches that Jesus' followers placed on the road in front of him as he rode into Jerusalem. For most of my life, I've had the wrong mental picture of this event in my head, probably from movies and church Easter productions. Like most people, I had the idea that what we call The Triumphal Entry happened this way: Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and crowds of people came out to greet him and shout "Hosanna!" That's not the way it happened.

I'm not going to explain why here. I'll only say that Luke and John clearly state that this event took place on the road, before they entered the city. (Luke 19:37, John 12:12-13)

This is an important distinction for this reason. If it took place on the streets of Jerusalem, it was a crowd of strangers shouting. If it was before they entered the city, it was a crowd of his family, friends, and disciples. The gospels all indicate that the crowd that Sunday had followed Jesus all the way there.

I go into much greater detail about all of this in my Bible Blog. If you're interested, you can read my analysis of and commentary on Luke's account of this event here, Mark's account here, and Matthew's account here. I'll provide links to my Bible Blog posts each day this week for any who may be interested. If you only want to read one of the above, I recommend Luke.

I haven't written on John's version yet. I doubt I'll ever get back to writing my Bible Blog. I have other priorities now.

Luke's gospel, in particular, stresses the fact that a growing crowd of people had followed Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. This was the group that was cheering him on as he entered the city.

People think of Jesus as having twelve disciples, but in reality, he had many more than that. The Twelve Apostles were the leadership of that group. Within that inner circle, Jesus had an even smaller inner circle that consisted of Peter, James, and John. Beyond the Twelve, there was the larger group of disciples who followed Jesus around. There always seemed to be a crowd around him, unless he chose to avoid them.

On the road to Jerusalem, the crowd around Jesus grew larger, as pilgrims who were on their way to Jerusalem for Passover joined the group. It was customary for large groups to travel together in that culture because bandits on the road were a constant danger.

Jesus was walking purposefully toward certain death. He knew that his week would end in unimaginable horror for him. But he wasn't walking alone. His inner circle was there, walking along beside him. His leadership group was also there with him, even the one who would betray him in a few days. His larger group of disciples were there too. Some had walked for days, weeks, months and years with him. But many had joined late in the journey. None of them had any idea what was coming, except for Jesus.

I can relate to this part of Jesus' week very easily. I too, am walking down a road that I don't want to travel. I too am facing death, though not this week. Hopefully. And I too have a large, growing group of people walking the road with me.

We may be family. We may have been close friends for many years. We may have only known each other for a short time, or since I was diagnosed with cancer. Or we may not know each other at all. But whoever you are, I am more grateful for your presence here than I can put into words.

More and more are joining us all the time. I apologize if I've clogged your newsfeed with new Facebook friend notifications, but I can't stop adding to my crowd on the road. And just like Jesus, I can hear you cheering me on.

Here's the big difference between my road and the one Jesus walked. I'm trying to put death off for as long as I can. He headed straight for it, out of sheer love for us. When things got really ugly later that week, Jesus' crowd abandoned him. I know that will never happen to me, because of you, my crowd on the road.

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