Two Parades

Peanut-Thanksgiving-Macys-Parade-November-MACYSPARADE1117I’m not a parade person.  I don’t like crowds.  Kansas parade season is October-March which is usually cold.  Finally, watching a bunch of children run toward a bunch of moving vehicles chasing candy seems like a recipe for disaster.  Many others love parades.  North Topekan’s love parades.  By my last count, North Topeka has at least 5 parades between October and December and my friends love them all.  One thing is for certain, parades attract a crowd.  When a parade wanders by, heads pop out of windows, people stop and stare, and people crowd to the doors.  The same is true regardless of what century you lived in.  Every parade draws a crowd but every parade is essentially the same.  Animals, tiny cars, marching bands, clowns, floats, and candy.  But the two parades at the end of Luke couldn’t be more different.

The first one took place on Sunday; the other on Friday.  The first, came down the country road from Mount of Olives into the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19.28); the other began in the city and wound its way through the crowded streets to just outside the city.

They juxtapose each other.  The first being the idea of carried.  Jesus sent 2 disciples ahead of him to get a donkey colt for him to ride on.  Near as I can tell, this was the only time that Jesus rode.  But it was to fulfill prophecy:

See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9.9)

Zechariah is talking about how the King will ride in on a donkey, carried into the city on a colt.  That was the significance of the palm leaves that we often wave in church on Palm Sunday.  It was a sign of victory and this Parade is a celebration of the King.  In the second parade, Jesus is carrying his cross.  The soldiers pull a man from the crowd and make him carry the cross.  The greek word “made carry” [pheroo] is the same word that Mark uses in chapter 11 when they “brought” the colt to Jesus to ride.  In the first, the colt is bearing Jesus; the second, Jesus is bearing the cross.

The second parade is full of mourning and wailing (23.27); the first, “the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God…” (19.37)  The second parade chanted: “Crucify him!  Crucify him!; the first, “Hosanna!” (Matthew 21.9)  The irony is palpable.  The second cried out: “Kill him” while the first shouted “he saves!”  These crowds are as opposite as you could come up with.   They are as opposite as the direction they are heading and the purpose they serve.  The first parade was a victory parade with palm leaves, worthy of a King’s inauguration, the second was a death march with the condemned leading the way.

They each have a scripture, but they are at odds with one another. The first parade, the one of victory, quotes Psalm 118.26: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”  The verse that follows in Psalms reads: “The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us.  With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.”  The crowd is relishing their connection with Scripture, interacting with and taking part in God’s word.  This day the Lord has saved those one thought to be rejected…and its worth a celebration.  The second crowd wasn’t shouting their scripture but heard Jesus quote it.  The weeping, wailing, and shouting of the second parade was met with this quote from Hosea: “they will say to the mountains, ‘fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘cover us!'” (Hosea 10.8)  It’s taken from a section of scripture where Hosea is laying out the sins of Israel and the punishment that is coming.  Jesus sees this future as well.  One is a celebration of the future, the other is a dreading of the future.

So many differences in the two parades that happened just under a week apart.

But one thing was the same.  This was festival time for the nation of Israel.  It was a week long festival where people would come to the city and stay.  What was the same?  The same voices who shouted “victory” on Sunday would be the one shouting “crucify” on Friday.  The same ones waving palm leaves the first day of the week would be holding hammers and nails by the 6th.  The same ones embracing Jesus as King on Sunday would be crucifying Jesus as criminal by Friday.

We want to judge those in the easily influenced and simple minded crowd until we realize the transition in my life doesn’t always take 5 days…it can happen in seconds.

Down the Road

100_6520_0010 On the road is where people mingle, meet, and interact.

He introduced himself as Santa Clause in the middle of the Frankfurt, Germany terminal.  It was 2-in-the-morning-ish but you couldn’t tell from his demeanor.  He had a banjo.  He was was a missionary headed to India to spread the gospel by banjo-ing.  It was 2011.

A few years later, wandering down a  crowded walkway at the International Conference of Missions, I bump into a portly man sporting a grey beard and a familiar banjo.  It was Santa Claus.  He says “I remember you!”   It was odd because of the two of us, I figured I would be the one more easily forgettable.  Had I not gone out on the road, I never would meet such interesting people.

The same can be said for Jesus.  Luke 9.51 reads:

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

The NIV renders the phrase ‘resolutely set out’ translating a greek idiom.  The greek literally reads: he “established his face toward Jerusalem”.  The idea is that he would not be deterred from making his way to Jerusalem.  This verse begins a section of Luke that would be called the Travel Narrative by scholars.  The reason is that Jesus is continually traveling up to Jerusalem.  Along the way he keeps meeting people.  Also of note is that the material contained in Luke 9-19, the Travel Narrative, is largely unique to Luke and not found in other Gospels.  What fascinates me is what these people who meet Jesus leave with.

Some left with teaching.  “As they walked along the road…” (10.57), “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and loks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” (10.62) They learn the cost of following Jesus.  He teaches them about prayer, the how and the why (11) and on worry (12.22ff).  As he “went through towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem…”(13.22), “he said to them, ‘make every effort to enter through the narrow door…” (13.23ff), teaching them the difficulty of salvation.  “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said…whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (14.25,27,33)  He touched on eternal life (10.25; 18.18); hypocrisy (12.1); and the Sabbath (13.15).  Some meet Jesus on the road and need some wisdom.  His message is clear, “here’s how to be a disciple!” which is the perfect message given that the stage is a road, where discipleship is shown.

Some left with healing.  There were some that shown up on this road with some physical baggage that needed to be handled.  There was the man who had the demon (11.14); a crippled woman (13.11); a man with swelling (14.2); and the Ten Lepers (17.11).  He was on his way to Jerusalem, but it was never beyond his time to show mercy and compassion to these people.  Healing would always have a place and time on this road.  These people knew that meeting Jesus would change their lives.  That is why the last healing, the blind beggar in Jericho, was one that was instigated by a man shouting out Jesus name and causing a scene.  When all you have known your entire life is blindness and begging, Jesus is your only viable option and you would do what you could to get to him. (18.35)

Some left with a story.  This travel narrative is full of stories.  Jesus is constantly telling these short stories that make a point.  Jesus knew that stories stick with people so he uses this method to change people.  The stories are the ones that everyone grew up with…

  • “There was a man who had two sons…” (Luke 15)
  • “A certain man was preparing a great banquet…” (Luke 14)
  • “The Kingdom is like a mustard seed…” (Luke 13)
  • “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them…” (Luke 15)
  • “Two men went up to the temple to pray…” (Luke 18)

And there are others on the road.  A parable is a simple story with a deeper significance.  Each of these stories were meant to teach a truth to the person(s) there.  The prodigal son puts the love of God and the pride of righteousness on display.  The great banquet is a meal open to anyone who will respond.  The mustard seed is 12 men who changed the world.  The lost sheep is the persistent love of God.  The Pharisee and Tax collector offer insight into pride and hubris.  I’m going to borrow a term from Aristotle to describe the literary device that Jesus employs.   The term is anagnorisis which means “discovery”.  Nearly every story begins by our identification with the hero of the story, the good son or the Pharisee, but by the end of the story, we realize that we have problems.  In an instant, we discover that maybe we don’t have it all together.

So there he is on the road.  Wandering back and forth between the countryside and Jerusalem.  He is meeting and walking with any who would take the time to come to him.  What is it that you need to meet Jesus on this road about?  Do you need teaching?  A reminder concerning worry, prayer, discipleship?  Maybe it’s healing?  Do you need his power to overcome depression or addiction?  Maybe it’s a story?  Perhaps you just need to meet him to get a good story?

Its time we get out and meet him on the road.