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Trading Places

Palm Sunday is a strange day liturgically. We start our services by remembering the joyful anticipation of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and we end by remembering his death on a Roman cross. Palm Sunday spans the historic last week of Jesus’ ministry and life, Sunday through Friday. That week began with the hailing of a long-awaited King and ended with that same King’s death. It’s a movement of apparent victory to apparent defeat, from a throne to a cross. The weird part is that many of the crowd that were on Sunday praising Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of David, did a complete 180 and called for his crucifixion on Friday morning. Insanity. Palm Sunday brackets the growing darkness of Holy Week. But Holy Week not only recounts the week leading up to Jesus’ death. It also marks the pinnacle of the story of God’s redeeming work. In Jesus, the human story converges with God’s redemptive story. Jesus comes as the Mediator between God and Man, as the unique Christ who is both fully man and fully God. This story of Jesus and of God’s redemption of the world… is our story too. The primal story of mankind’s origins reveals a 180 degree turning similar to that of the crowds in the Holy Week drama. God created mankind in a paradisiacal garden. Mankind was all too willing at the beginning to hail God as their Lord, their King, their master. But then they turned. They no longer trusted God. They didn’t believe His word. They rebelled against his instructions, His commandment meant to guard their lives. They wanted to be God. They were banished from the Garden, and despite thousands of years of God calling them, drawing them out of all manner of troubles (including slavery), providing for them abundantly and miraculously, the story came to a natural conclusion when God sent His only Son to His people and they responded by killing Him. The story of mankind is the story of Holy Week. We began by loving and praising our God and King. We ended by killing Him on a cross. But as I mentioned, this is our story too. It is the story of our hearts, both yours and mine. For there at the center of our individual stories we find a throne and a cross. There at the heart of who I am Jesus stands and I stand. At the core level of your story stands you and Jesus, a throne and a cross. We all tend to sit firmly established on the throne of our lives, while our rightful King has mounted the cross because of our sin and rebellion. Make no mistake – Jesus will have his heart’s desire. He will have his beloved people with him, and with him because they love him and want to be with him. But for us to love him as our Savior and King, there must be a death. A death at the heart of who we are. We cannot be king and lord if Jesus is King and Lord. We must yield our domains, our fiefdoms, our pretended sovereignty. We must die to the role we have been so long at playing. We must die to playing the lord of our life. If you have ever tried this for long, you know we don’t die easily to that. There is great suffering in laying down our lordship, because we want what we want and we have become so practiced at trying to bend heaven and earth to do our will, that yielding to the will of Another feels like dying. And so it is. A throne and a cross. It’s the movement of Holy Week from one to the other.

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