On that first Palm Sunday Jesus’ disciples and crowds of fans cheered His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. As they raised palm branches and shouted “Hosanna!” to their soon-to-be King, their expectations for a restored Kingdom of David rose in their hearts.
Hoping to hear Jesus say “We’re tired of not winning. From now on we’re going to win, and I mean, win big,” instead the disciples heard Jesus talking about dying and losing. And to make matters worse, He invited them to die and lose with Him.
As I’ve reflected on John’s record of Holy Week, I’ve wondered: What will I have to lose if I submit to King Jesus? What will have to die if I am to live in the Kingdom He bought for me with His blood?
Several clues in the context of this story have convinced me that I may have to lose my PLACE, my POWER, and my PRESTIGE. Today we’ll consider what it might mean to lose our place in order to live in Christ’s Kingdom.
“If we let him [Jesus] go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:48, ESV)
The power brokers feared Jesus. If this insurgent irritates the Romans enough, the Jews might lose their current place and nation. The poor and broken cheered Jesus. These common folk waved palm branches for one they hoped would help them gain a better place and nation. One hoped to guard their “good life” while the other hoped to get one.
Do you ever struggle with the place in which God has put you? Sometimes I do. Not that I don’t love the people in this place, but sometimes I long to live back home closer to my parents and extended family. You see, I grew up in “God’s Country” . . . North Carolina. (Of course it’s God’s Country, why else did He make the sky Carolina Blue?) Sometimes I grumble like those tent dwelling Hebrews, Why did the Lord lead us into this desert (I live in Texas)? (Don’t get me wrong, I’m half Texan. My mom is from Austin.) But Texas has represented some desert-like times in our life, too . . . difficult, dry, draining times.
I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to desire to live close to family, especially when I desire to serve and care for aging parents who invested their lives into me and my little family. But when that desire becomes a demand that God do what I want, when I want it, then something I believe might be ideal might become an idol.
I’m convicted by Psalm 16:6, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” What if God’s Country is not defined by the boundaries I dream to draw but by the inheritance He’s called me to inhabit? Do I believe that the lines He’s drawn for me have fallen in pleasant places? Do I trust Him enough to see beauty in the desert?
The great Master Gardener, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in a wonderful providence, with his own hand, planted me here, where by his grace, in this part of his vineyard, I grow; and here I will abide till the great Master of the vineyard think fit to transplant me. – Samuel Rutherford
Psalm 16 goes on to say, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, ESV)
Ah, I get it now. God’s Country is wherever God is present, and that’s what makes a place pleasant. After all, we’re talking about the God who promises to make a way in the wilderness and cause rivers to flow in the desert for the people of His praise (Isaiah 43:19-21).
A Note about Losing our Nation . . .
The Jewish leaders were also concerned that the arrival of King Jesus might cause them to lose their nation. We can relate, can we not? As D. A. Carson noted: “The world still seeks political saviors.”
I wonder how much of my angst over what’s happening in our country is more about losing my comfort than it is about loving my country. If I loved this country as much as I claim to, wouldn’t I love the people more than I love my political party or persuasion? Someone recently quipped, “The results of Super Tuesday are nothing compared to the results of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.” What am I going to do with Jesus if I lose the America I’ve come to enjoy?
I love my country, but do I love the people who live here? Perhaps I don’t want my neighbors to seek Jesus any more than the Pharisees wanted their countrymen to seek the true Messiah. How anxious do I get about seeing my neighbors, the nations, and the next generation submit their hearts to the crucified King? Maybe, like the Pharisees, I’m more anxious to preserve what I think is “God’s Country.” Maybe I’m more concerned about my pursuit of happiness in my country than about joining God in His pursuit of my countrymen for the sake of their full and forever happiness.
Lord, have mercy on my me-first heart.
Tomorrow: “Losing My Power”