This past Sunday, our Pastor, Chad Herndon, shared a Palm Sunday message with our congregation that has rocked my week. Two especially powerful words from that message have echoed on long after we exited the church building and drove away from the church parking lot. Maybe I shouldn't confess I've tried to shake them and with all my might pretended I never heard them, but I did. Loud and clear. With his voice shaking and tears forming in his own eyes, Pastor Chad said, "He wept."
Pastor Chad's words came from the biblical account in Luke of Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, fully aware he had punched a one way ticket to his own crucifixion. Luke 19:41-44 says the following:
When he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "O that you knew today the terms of peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you because you did not know the time of your visitation."
First, it's helpful to know there are only two places in the bible that specifically state Jesus wept. The other was over the death of his best friend Lazarus. So to get a distance sense of Jesus' emotion in this scene, imagine for a moment losing your best friend. The other thing to know is Jesus wept while the people of Jerusalem were welcoming him to town with today's version of a Denver Broncos ticker tape parade. How could he experience such sadness in the midst of of a hero's welcome?
Because Jesus knew he wasn't the king these people were expecting. The people had been longing for a political powerhouse, a warrior who would overthrow the Roman government and end the chaos and oppression that had been an extended part of their lives. That wasn't Jesus. He'd come with different terms for peace. He'd come to point people toward his heavenly father, to let them know that life was eternal, and to seek their their trust in his words more than their own swords and ideals. Jesus wept because he knew they'd missed that visitation, that their celebration, as sincere as many of them were, had little ties to what he'd been trying to teach.
The words "He wept" haven't haunted me this week because of how clearly I can imagine that scene thousands of years ago, because I can. They've haunted me because of just how sure I am that if Jesus rode into town today, the updated passage in Luke would still report:
We are in the midst of one of the most vitriolic political campaigns of my lifetime. Most of it stems from large groups of people believing they've identified the king who will overthrow the hopeless situations they perceive themselves to be in. No matter what we think of those individual candidates, or the things they say or propose, the reality is their support is rooted in the negative regard people have for their present living conditions. We may believe their perceptions are wrong or misguided, but that changes nothing. They are still seeking their own version of hope.
Eight years ago, President Obama ran for president on a platform of hope and change. Today, based on the current political environment, many people in this country are apparently still looking for both.
I promise this post isn't melting into a political rant. (Although some might prefer that over a Christianity rant). The reality is, in my opinion, that to whatever degree President Obama has failed to deliver on hope and change, and the current political rancor would suggest he's come up short of even his own vision of this message, it's not his doing. Anytime we build our foundation for finding hope on a political figure, we are going to be disappointed time and time again.
Yesterday, my friend Tracey Outlaw shared a message that Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, delivered at the Annual Starbucks Shareholders meeting. In his message Shultz encouraged people to be more compassionate, inclusive, optimistic and much more. He said: “It’s not about the choice we make every four years, this is about the choices we make every day.”
Hear Schultz' brief but inspirational message here: (Howard Schultz Caps Starbucks Annual Meeting with a Call for Civility and Values-Based Leadership)
Jesus didn't ride into Jerusalem as part of a political campaign parade. He wasn't trying to sell a message. He was more like the UPS man delivering a package. In the package was the free secret to the peace and fulfillment they and we would go to great lengths to find. Only the secret wasn't the political answer they'd grown accustomed to looking for. It was a message, much like Shultz', that was much more personal challenge than miracle cure. Jesus' boldly proclaimed his package contained the truth and the way and the life, and all three could be found in these commands:
Love God and love one another.
I'm afraid during the growing animosity of this political season we're about to miss another visitation. And in doing so, there will only be more tears.