Irony; a concept that is lost on many people. A concept I first discovered in 1996 while listening to Alanis Morissette singing on the radio about odd coincidences like rain on your wedding or a free ride after you've already paid. I can't say that I really understood what it meant back then, but there is a moment in scripture that displays the idea perfectly.
Holy Week is nearly upon us and billions of Christians across the globe will celebrate with varying degrees of somber reflection and joyous commemoration. And I, for one, will join them as we observe the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But Holy Week begins with a coronation; with adulation and exaltation. And irony.
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!"
On his way into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover (the most important Jewish holiday), Jesus was riding the colt of a donkey and a wave of popularity. He had recently raised Lazarus from the dead and the people in Jerusalem were anticipating his arrival for Passover. More than that, they were anticipating his ascension to political power. The nation of Israel was squirming under the rule of the Roman government, and the people believed that Jesus could be the leader that they'd been waiting for; someone with power and authority. And so as he rode into the city, many people came to hail him as king.
Here's the irony of the scene: he was coming to be crowned king. But not as king of a political coup or of a nation looking to regain the glory of centuries gone-by. Jesus was coming to assert his authority over sin and death. The king was not coming to rule. He was coming to die. Instead of a crown, he wore thorns. Instead of a throne, he ascended a cross.
And so this Sunday, many will assemble in their local gatherings to hail him as king once again. And ironically, our hope is that Jesus will come to make things right. That by serving him, he will give us peace or will make us happy or will give us hope. And it's true that Jesus has promised to give us peace and hope, but not in the way we often think. His peace is not a lack of turmoil; it is assurance in the midst of turmoil. His hope is not for a long life and a future full of promise; it is a hope for a new life after this one has wasted away.
This Palm Sunday when we gather with our families and friends to declare that Christ is the king, let's not do so in hopes that he will come to somehow make our lives more bearable. But let's hail him as king because he is the king and because he deserves our adulation. Because if he did nothing else for us, we could spend eternity trying unsuccessfully to repay our debt to him.