Palm Sunday

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Matthew 26 begins with Jesus telling His disciples, including Judas presumably, “The Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified,” and just a dozen verses later we read, “Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the Chief Priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?”

I think that Judas may have been the only one of the twelve who understood that Jesus intended to literally die on a cross. Perhaps the others thought that Jesus was employing metaphor or speaking in parables as he often did, but I think Judas heard and understood perfectly Jesus’ intention to die on a cross. However he did not understand why that was good and needed.

Here is what we must understand about Judas; The Jesus we see matters. And the question that Judas’ story raises in our minds is “Do we see Jesus clearly?” Judas did not and that was his undoing.

Judas’ preference for a Jesus that he imagined and hoped for, who was an invention of his fallen desires and ambitions, caused him to be offended by the real Jesus when He showed up. Because he was blinded by a hoped-for Jesus, he saw no beauty or excellence in the real Jesus and this led him to betray what was infinitely valuable for 30 pieces of silver. This trading of the infinitely valuable for just a little bit of this earth is always what comes from not seeing Jesus clearly. The thief on the cross who railed against Jesus saw a Jesus also. He believed that Jesus had power to deliver him from off the cross, but that was all he wanted from Jesus- a few more days on the earth. His hoped-for Jesus was someone who would give him more of this fallen world. And when Jesus would not do what he wanted… and be to him what he wanted… he cursed him. Just like Judas, he did not see Jesus clearly either.

There are many people who are motivated to follow Jesus because they perceive that there will be some this-worldly benefit in doing so. Their focus and concern is totally wrapped up in finding comfort and security in the here and now. This is what they are all about, and tragically, they are so blinded by their love of comfort and this world, that when Jesus fails to produce a life of material abundance or continued health or security or freedom from hardship… they walk away from the bread of life which would have satisfied them perfectly and eternally. The world is full of these sorts of people- Philippians 3:19 says of them, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” They are like so many Esaus trading their birthright for a bowl of stew.

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, which celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem one week before his rendezvous with the cross. I hope you can listen in as we open this passage of scripture together and see what happens when we follow a hoped-for Jesus of our invention rather than the fullness of who Jesus truly is.