Across the Pastor’s Desk: Jesus is the Savior that we need

Published 8:00 pm Friday, March 22, 2024

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Across the Pastor’s Desk by Eileen Woyen

This Sunday begins a very important week in the life of Christians. Holy Week begins this Sunday with Palm/Passion Sunday.

Eileen Woyen

When I was a kid, Palm Sunday was one of my favorite worship services. We would all get palm branches that looked more like wobbly swords than palm tree leaves. Usually by the end of the service, the palm had been torn into little strips or carefully folded into a cross. We would use these palms for the Palm Procession. In the Palm Procession, we would reenact Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We would wave our palms back and forth. We would shout “Hosanna!” We would either walk around the church, if the weather was good, or march around the sanctuary as we sang at the top of our lungs “All Glory, Laud, and Honor.” It is a worship service that uses the body and all the senses to praise God.

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What a wonderful way to worship God! But what about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem?

As I have grown in faith and knowledge and worship is more than the dancing, the singing or the waving, I have discovered that this “triumphal” entry might not have been as triumphal and spectacular than I thought.

Remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem? This story is found in all four gospels. Jesus is preparing his disciples for when they go to Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus has been preaching and teaching, healing and serving. He has made many joyous and happy. Jesus is the Messiah the prophets had spoken about. He will bring God’s Kingdom.

He has made others suspicious and angry. There is a group of religious leaders who don’t want Jesus to come to Jerusalem — the city of God’s temple. This group would rather he just go away. It was dangerous for Jesus to go to Jerusalem. Some of his disciples urged him to stay away. However, it was God’s will that Jesus continue to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, Jesus will be arrested, tried and crucified.

As Jesus and his disciples prepare for his arrival, Jesus directs his followers to go into Jerusalem and get a donkey for him to ride. This should be a clue to the kind of Messiah Jesus is. Leaders don’t ride donkeys. Generals, caesars ride stallions, beautiful horses. Jesus rides a donkey, a work animal.

The people of Jerusalem had seen processions like this before when the Roman officials had graced them with their presence. We can be sure that they didn’t come riding in on a donkey. They had the best steed that could be found. They wore garments of fine linen and jewels. City officials and all the city hot shots would be in attendance. The people would shout their praises. Flowers and gifts would be laid at his feet.

The people’s shouts would turn from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” in one short week.

In Jesus’ procession, it’s the normal folk who are there. They have no lavish gifts to throw at Jesus’ feet. They have just their cloaks and branches from the trees. They too shout their praises. They shout “Hosanna! Hosanna! Glory to God in the highest!” Hosanna means “Save us.” Save us from this foreign government. Save us from oppression. Save us from poverty. Save us from ill health. Save us from ourselves.

They had the Scriptures, our Old Testament, and all that was foretold in that Word — many exact details, and yet confusing details, as well. What did God’s people expect to see in the Messiah to come?

How would they recognize him when he did come? What clues did Scripture provide for them? The Messiah would be the serpent-crushing child of the woman promised to Adam and Eve. The Messiah would be the mighty Son promised to King David, the Son whose throne and kingdom would last forever.

He would come as a child, born of a virgin, and he would be called “God with us.” The Messiah would be the Lion of Judah’s tribe, the one who would rightly wield the scepter of Israel and whose birth would be announced by a star. The Messiah would be a suffering servant, rejected, beaten and killed, a lamb led without protest to slaughter.

So what would the Messiah be — a mighty lion or a murdered lamb? God’s people waited eagerly for the Messiah to come, but they waited with some confusion.

For centuries Israel was trampled by foreign enemies. Its temple had been destroyed and its people taken into exile. They had returned and rebuilt the temple. But when the right time came and God did send his promised Messiah, Israel was once again occupied by a foreign power — the Roman Empire. It is no wonder that many people hoped and longed for a mighty warrior king, the Son of David who would drive out the hated foreign armies and restore Israel to glory as a nation.

The virgin-born Son of David came, but not everyone welcomed him. Many saw and recognized Jesus as their Messiah, and they believed in him. Others rejected him, afraid that this new prophet might upset the delicate balance of power between the temple authorities and Rome. Still others expected someone else, another kind of king, and they were disappointed. They wanted a mighty Son of David to destroy the Roman occupying forces and restore the kingdom. They wanted a king on a throne, not a king on a cross.

The Messiah they received from God may not have been the Savior they wanted, but he was the Savior they needed. He is the Savior we all need. There were greater, more terrifying enemies to be destroyed — sin, death and the devil — and only the Lamb of God could defeat them.

Sometimes even today, people would prefer a different kind of Messiah and Savior. They want a Savior who will give them perfect health, wealth and prosperity. They want a Messiah who will be simply a good example to follow or a wise teacher with helpful advice for daily living.