Summary: Jesus overcomes evil through the power of choice and adoption
We have been sharing a lot of information about our faith and trying in this season of repentance not to judge. It has been an incredible learning time for all of us. The title of the series comes from the old saying about judgment; “People in glass house shouldn’t throw?…..stones.” Right. The reality is we are almost always judging. We judge everything from the clothes someone wears to the way a person eats. We are creatures who judge and sometimes our judging comes back to teach us a lesson.
Today, I’d like for us to envision another place where judgment happens. How many of you have been to a parade? Parades can be a lot of fun right. The floats, the candy being thrown to the crowd, the clowns, the clubs and even the politicians all bring us back to a simpler time in Americana when it was truly entertainment. However, parades can be another place we gather to judge everything and everyone. From the size of the crowd to the length of the parade, from what the people in the parade are wearing to “oh my gosh” what is that child wearing in public, from the story of the day to the rumor of the week, parades have a way of subtly getting us to judge one another. It’s like going to a huge party. Everyone is sizing everyone up at a party. It’s human nature that when we gather we begin to make judgments and in the end, we judge ourselves.
All this talk of parades and parties reminds me of short piece of scripture, we often review around this time of year. It comes from John 12:1-19. If you have a bible or a bible app, I would ask you take a moment to turn to today’s scripture.
The scripture starts out with the anointing of Jesus’ feet by Mary, Lazarus’ sister, at a party where the other disciples were present. It’s an amazing story of love and respect in which Mary takes on the role of servant who would normally wash the guest’s feet. She, out of respect, anoints Jesus feet and then cleans them with her hair. As if to say, I am giving you my best for I am nothing. I have nothing else to give but I give you myself. The loyalty in the scene is uncomfortable and the people at the party were probably all watching and wondering what was going on, but it was Judas, who would eventually betray Jesus, who judges her and says, why didn’t she sell that and give the money to the poor? The judging didn’t stop though. The scripture goes on to say Jesus’ arrival along with Lazarus had begun to circulate through Bethany and more were coming to see for themselves Lazarus alive and hope to meet and follow Jesus. To which, the Chief priests judged Lazarus and Jesus’ ministry.
However, their judgment doesn’t slow Jesus. The next day the people, who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover feast, grab palm branches and line the road to cheer Jesus as rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. The imagery is of a victorious king riding in after a winning a battle. In this case, it’s not on a war horse but a colt, a simple sign of royalty that screams humility. The parade route has people cheering and the enemy plotting. As the palm branches are being thrown to the ground so even the colt’s feet don’t touch the ground as a sign of respect, there is something lurking underneath them?
The celebration of the moment that the palms signify hides a truth. Evil is present in the crowd, in the Pharisees, the chief priests and even the parade of disciples. Evil is present because it is multi-dimensional, nuanced and complex. Nick talked about this last week and reminded us that evil is often a slow fade but sometimes its crescendo is quick. A week is all it will take to turn joy into sorrow, hope into despair and love into hate. It’s really that quick.
In the gospel of Matthew, in the course of two chapters we see this phenomenon. Chapter 3 begins with the baptism of Jesus by John, the baptizer, and then immediately afterward, Jesus is whisked away into the desert for a time of fasting in the wilderness. The word’s “this is my son, with him I am well pleased” are followed with a key word “then.” There is no waiting game just a wilderness for 40 days until the evil one appears and tries to tempt Jesus through deception and lies to get him to fall prey to ego, self sufficiency and pride. To which our Savior, rebukes him and sends him away.
The beauty of the scripture comes in the truth that if Jesus was tempted when God’s favor rested upon him, why we wouldn’t we expect the same? When we claim Christ, as our Lord and Savior, the trials will come. Make no mistake though that through our trials and the pain of this life, we are transformed to be more like Christ than ever before.