His disciples did not understand at first

April 1, 2014

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am taking the good news today from John 12:12-19.

On the next day, when the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, [even] the king of Israel.” Jesus found an ass and sat upon it, as is written: “Fear no more, O daughter Zion; see, your king comes, seated upon an ass’s colt.” His disciples did not understand this at first, but when Jesus had been glorified they remembered that these things were written about him and that they had done this for him. So the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from death continued to testify. This was [also] why the crowd went to meet him, because they heard that he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after him.”

Jesus came on an ass, not a war horse or in a chariot as a conquering hero or king might have done. Barclay writes, “The point is that a king came riding upon a horse when he was bent on war; he came riding on ash ass when he was coming in peace. This action of Jesus is a sign that he was not the warrior figure men dreamed of, but the Prince of Peace. No one saw it that way at the time…[T]hey looked for the Messiah of their own dreams and their own wishful thinking; they did not look for the Messiah whom God had sent.” Not even his disciples understood the symbolism at the time. It took them a while to figure it out; only succeeding events brought clarity.

I so often first image Jesus as I want him to be and what I want him to do: fulfill my wishes. It customarily takes me a while to give that up and accept him as he intends to be received — humble, compassionate, loving, forgiving. It often takes an event, an outside word spoken or written, something outside of myself to get me to understand how he wants to use me to fulfill his mission rather than how I can use him to get what I want. I’m a process person and it usually takes me a long time to process, circling round and round in my mind searching for the exit, the answer to my wishes. It usually takes some intervention outside of myself to break out of that pattern and to remember that I am created to serve God, not for God to serve me. How I live my life is a gift to God, expanding on the gift of life that He has given me, using the talents He has given me for His good, not mine. I think that’s the process that the disciples were going through until after the resurrection, changing their roles from acolytes to proselytes.

I’m trying to shorten my process time — from wanting my wishes fulfilled to wanting to fulfill HIs wishes. For me it starts with prayer, with conversation with God, with surrender to His will. However, it’s hard for me to break one long-practiced habit and to install a new one. It takes discipline, but it also takes forgiveness of myself for the times I fail and determination to try yet again. I learn a lot in my failures, though. It’s a good thing because there are a lot of them.



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