Monday, March 14, 2005

Palm Sunday

According to Matthew’s gospel, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, "the whole city was in turmoil, asking, 'Who is this?'" This always seems to be the question about Jesus, "Who is this?" No answer will quiet the question. Even we who follow him must continually ask ourselves, "Who is this?"

There's a tradition recorded in the ancient Jewish Talmud about the coming of the Messiah, seeking to reconcile the two prophetic traditions. Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said, "If they are worthy, he will come 'with the clouds of heaven;' (Dan. 7:13) if they are unworthy he will come 'poor and riding upon a donkey.' (Zech. 9:9)" (Sanhedrin 98a). This is a favorite Talmudic saying among Christians because we associate both of these verses with the coming of the Messiah also, but have we learned anything?

First of all, as Christians we should know that it isn't because the Jewish people weren’t worthy that Jesus came "humble and mounted on a donkey." We know that it is instead simply because that's the kind of king Jesus is. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me," he says, "for I am humble and gentle in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." The Jews missed him, we say, because they were looking for the wrong kind of Messiah – because they had the wrong ideas about power and glory.

But have we really learned anything? Many Christians today are anxiously awaiting Christ's "glorious appearing" – we long to see him "coming on the clouds of heaven." We say that the Jews did not recognize Christ because they were expecting a different kind of Messiah – they were fooled by his humility. Do we do better?

Jesus describes what it will be like when he returns in this way: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory…he will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'"

We have prepared ourselves to see Christ when he comes in glory, but are we prepared to see him in the world today? Christ is all around us. He is there in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned. All we need to do to see him is ask, "Who is this?"


Steve Bogner said...

Yes, exactly. It's not easy to let ourselves see Christ in others, because then we'd have to change how we treat others. We would have to stop ignoring, persecuting, disrespecting, minimizing and so on.

Andy said...

One of the things I realized as I re-read this (it never ceases to surprise me that I can learn from things that I wrote) is that it isn't even necessary to ask "Is this Christ?" when we see the poor and disenfranchised. Simply asking, "Who is this?" is enough. Once we recognize this person as a person our callousness is beaten.

And I think there is definitely a connection between seeing people as people and seeing Christ in them. Perhaps this is what Martin Buber talked about as seeing the "divine You" all around us.