Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Psalm 31; Mark 14:1-15:47
When Our Lord entered Jerusalem he was greeted by the people as a conquering hero, they had witnessed, or heard about the miracles he had performed, even raising Lazarus from the dead! They were prepared to embrace him as the Messiah, but the Messiah according to their own ideas. He was to be a great general and cast the Roman usurpers out of their city and country, he was to restore their civilization, their position in the world, he was to do for them what they could not do for themselves. When he was arrested, and proved himself, in their eyes, unable even to help himself, he was rejected and handed over for crucifixion.
Haven’t we all done this very thing as well? In our egotism and blindness we say to God, “I want this!” or “I need this!” or “Do this for me!” or “Fix this for me!”. And when we don’t get what we have “prayed” for we blame God, or reject God, or claim that God must not care because he didn’t answer. I sometimes feel that we think that because we have prayed, and tithed and gone to Church that God somehow owes us what we ask of him. This is the Palm Sunday attitude, “Because we have praised you and hailed you as the Messiah you have to save us!” And of course he did, just not in a way they could understand, no wonder Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Do we understand it? Do we understand the Kenosis, the self-emptying of Christ? The self-emptying that we are to emulate? “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” We are to have the same mind as Christ, a mind, and heart, and body, that is obedient to the point of death – even death on whatever cross we are to bear.
As I have said before, this self-emptying, this humility, does not mean that we become doormats and let everyone just walk all over us. No, because if we are truly self-emptying, what we are filled with is the presence, the life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We stand in the strength, power and love of God. If we are walked on, it is because we have allowed it for a greater purpose. And that greater purpose is the building of the Kingdom of God. That is why Jesus allowed himself to be arrested, scourged and crucified, allowed it – in the Gospel of John Jesus says, “Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” No one can take our life from us, because our life is Jesus Christ, our life is hidden in God. Nothing that happens to us here can take that life, even if we die in this body, we are not truly dead if we are in Christ. So we live in God, die in God, and are with God in eternity – that means that here, in this world, there is nothing to fear – nothing. We talked about this in class on Thursday, how many things there are in this world to fear – but the truth is, there is nothing – if we have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.
The people who hailed Christ at the Triumphal entry wanted him to conquer their fears, to save them from all that threatened them – we want the same thing. But, hopefully, we have a better idea of the way that happens. We do not reject Christ at his arrest, but follow him on his way to the Cross, taking up our own as we go. We face the fallen world, and our own fallen nature and will, in the power of his Crucifixion and Resurrection, in the victory over sin and death, the world, the flesh and the devil. We conquer fear by living in Love, Love that is God. We conquer fear by knowing that whatever happens to us here, our life, our true life, is safe in Christ. We conquer fear by emptying ourselves of self-concern and not living for ourselves alone. We conquer fear by living in trust, humility, and grace. And when we pray, instead of demanding, or wheedling, or bargaining, we pray with Christ in the Garden, “Not my will, but your will be done.”