Home > Uncategorized > Is Jesus a River or a Wall?

Is Jesus a River or a Wall?

Over the past few days I have been posting various status updates on Facebook in order to flesh out some ideas of who Jesus is and who Jesus is not. Statements like the following were only met with approval: 

“Things Jesus never said: Make sure your theology is correct before you follow me.”

“Things Jesus did not say: If you are to really follow me, just continue to meet with you friends and study the Bible. That is all you need to do.”

But today I wrote one that received more comments than likes. This is what I wrote:

“Jesus never said: You are wrong!”

Most people who know me know that I do believe the Bible mandates a certain ethic/morality and that to follow Jesus means a life set apart, a life of holiness. I believe that when Jesus said one must die to self that he actually meant it. 

But I also realized that a chord of dissonance was struck in that post. And my question is this, “Why do we feel the need to be right?” What is it within us, and I ask this honestly, that so strongly desires to be right? 

I like to win arguments with people. I like to have my idea chosen, and I like when I am stated as the expert. I like when my friends quote me. And I think this is unhealthy about myself.

I’ve been meditating on Mark 11 this month, in preparation for preaching in chapel in a few weeks. This passage details Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem, often called the Triumphal Entry.

Perhaps you know the story – the people lay out their coats, wave palm branches and shout out, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

And it is their full expectation that Jesus is coming into town to overthrow the current political regime. They see before them a warrior, a fighter, a man who will finally save them from the oppression they have experienced under Roman rule.

And we also know the end of the story. Jesus is brutally killed. He does not fight back, but allows his captors to end his life. Yet death does not prevail, and three days later Jesus rises from the dead. Amen!

But here is the thing – while Jesus was parading through these people praising his coming kingdom, they were proclaiming something that was not true about him. Their perceptions of who he was were wrong. 

Yet he did not correct them.

What?!? He knew what they were proclaiming, and he did not correct them. He did not tell them they were wrong. He did not stop the parade, stand on top of his donkey, and proclaim, “No! Do you not see who I really am? I have told you all these things, and yet you do not get it!”

Instead, he allows them to praise him in their false perceptions of who he is.

This has been challenging for me to ponder. What are your thoughts? 

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  1. Bill Bullock
    March 15, 2012 at 7:07 AM

    You can either help people or judge them. It is very hard to do both.

  2. Jim Schultz
    March 15, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    Check Matthew 16:23 and Luke 9::54 & 55

    Like those greeting Him on Palm Sunday we never get it completely right. Especially when it comes to timing. Fortunately we seem to get graded on a pass/fail basis rather than A, B, etc. I guess it’s like horseshoes where we get points for being close.

    • March 15, 2012 at 9:57 AM

      I love that Jesus, in this story, allows people to praise him in their really wrong misconceptions – I mean, they are not even close! And yet he does not stop them, correct them – just allows them to praise him from where they are. Soon enough they will be able to respond to their misperceptions. For now, let them praise. Just beautiful.

  3. March 15, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    Thank you for the post, Jamie.

    Actually, they were not wrong. He was entering Jerusalem just as He was prophesied to do. He cannot help our perceptions. He never went out of His way to try to make those with no ears to hear, or to make those with no eyes to see. If you got it you got it. Otherwise, you didn’t get it. There were those at that time who did get it, however. Whether they understood fully or not, it was without doubt a time to praise He who came in the name of the Lord.

    “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” [Zechariah 9:9]

    The prophets had always foretold two separate returns. They had foretold the coming of a Suffering Servant Messiah, whom rabbis referred to as “The Son of Joseph.” They also foretold of a Conquering King Messiah, who was known as “The Son of David.” Israel was mainly interested only in the latter, especially when the Lord came the first time. They wanted the Warrior King. It was only afterwards that most believers began to understand what had happened according to the prophetic word.

    Repentance, suffering, and denying oneself always precede being raised to new Life.

    “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” [Matthew 23:12]

    • March 15, 2012 at 11:34 AM

      Thanks, RJ! I appreciate your interactions with this. But I still don’t see in the text that they got it – of course, after Jesus died and rose again there were those (including Mark) who did get and could connect the dots. But for these people ushering Jesus into Jerusalem, there was the main hope of restoring the kingdom through political power. Hence, the reason for asking for the real revolutionary Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus. But the beauty of it all is that Jesus works with us in our misperceptions…and slowly, if we are able to hear and see, transforms them into what he desires.

  4. March 15, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    Yes, exactly. And that is one of the many things that is so great about Him. To whatever degree a person can see or hear, the Lord can work with that and build on it. The longer we follow Him the more we learn and understand. Even if He has very little to work with in the beginning, He can, through our faith and obedience, develop us and what we have.

    Regarding the passage, the people were simply obeying the prophecy. They were doing what the prophetic Word said they must do. They were proclaiming Jesus as Messiah. It does not necessarily have to be connected in their thinking to overthrowing the Romans in that one instant of time. They were simply honoring their God and King, as that is who the Messiah is. They were witnesses to His arrival in the city. They confirmed who He was.

    Of course, that passage of praise took Him straight to the Temple, which He cleansed, and which also infuriated the religious unbelievers. There is no doubt the people became immediately afraid because they knew what Jesus had done would bring severe retribution. Many became fearful and many others decided to side with their religious authority figures against the Lord, being driven into a frenzy by religious hotheads. Cleansing the Temple was the turning point and the “last straw.” Not only did He attack their fake religion and social standing, he attacked their money, the ultimate no-no.

    It’s great to discuss this with you!

    RJ

  5. Jane Smith
    March 16, 2012 at 4:10 AM

    With respect, the view that the cheering crowds expected Jesus to overthrow the Roman government is nowhere stated in any of the gospels. The gospels say that the crowds saw Him as a prophet and, to the best of my knowledge, a prophet in Israel was someone who was known to speak God’s word, not someone who engaged in any form of military action.

    We all get told – in bible colleges and theological seminaries – that ordinary people of the time saw Jesus as coming to overthrow the Romans, but I can’t help wondering if we moderns aren’t, in fact, imposing a Zionist theology on Jesus’ contemporaries.

    The whole business of money is interesting too – when someone (in the temple precincts, I think) comes up to Him and asks Him about paying taxes to Caesar, His well-known response (“whose image is on the coin?”) probably contained a tacit rebuke – it was forbidden to bring an image onto the temple grounds.

    There’s so much we don’t know.

    • March 16, 2012 at 5:46 AM

      Thanks for your comment, Jane! You are correct in stating that there is so much we do not know. We surely don’t know what they were actually thinking as the praised Jesus that day, but we do know by their reactions to him a few days later, when he was tried, that he was not who they thought they were getting in a Messiah. And it is not too much of a stretch to translate the prophets as people who were also expecting a re-establishment or restoration of Israel and an overthrow of the Roman occupancy. In hindsight we see a few other prophecies that more accurately ushered Jesus’ reign into the world, but only in hindsight…

  6. Marlene Fitzwater
    March 18, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    I so appreciate the initial posting and the subsequent responses. We have been reading and discussing Thomas Moore’s “Writing in the Sand: Jesus & the Soul of the Gospels,” which invites us to read the gospels with “new eyes.” The core message of the book seems to be that we continue to interpret Jesus and his teachings in the wrong way. We worship the “son of God,” and ignore the real message. So, I agree that we aren’t much closer to getting it “right” today than the people of Jesus’ time. To really understand the person Jesus and his messages requires us to “die” to the old notions that we may have been taught as children and be “reborn” in order to totally shift our world view, our perspective of ourselves, others and our purpose. Thanks to all who shared such compelling, thought-provoking comments.

  7. Tom
    March 18, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Jesus did say to people they were wrong.

    • March 18, 2012 at 2:23 PM

      Tom,

      While Jesus did at times tell people they were mistaken, in this instance he does not say anything to them, even though they are wrong. And all I am writing about in this post is this particular passage. Thanks!

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