And So It Begins
We have all experienced that feeling of unease that descends on a Sunday evening. The weekend is closing, and a new work week stretches out before us. This can bring feelings of dread when you look ahead and contemplate how much you must accomplish in the upcoming days. Well take the worst case of the Sunday night blues and it cannot compare to what Jesus knew was coming in the days that we now call Holy Week.
It all starts with a triumphant entry into Jerusalem atop a donkey on Palm Sunday and it of course ends with His death upon the Cross. This is all known by Jesus, yet he walks the path anyway.
Our Old Fickle Friend, The Majority
The Gospel text this week is Matthew 26: 14-27:66. So, we have arrived at Holy Week. The final turn toward the Passion, death and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This year I find myself reflecting on majorities; specifically, God’s distinct lack of use for majorities. This is never more clearly seen than in the Biblical narratives surrounding the Passion of Christ, but in fact represents a consistent theme throughout Scripture.
The Old Testament has multiple examples of God rejecting the desires of the majority. Moses was called to repeatedly turn away the majority when they were whining about being hungry and discouraged on their long journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Moses was again instructed to reject the majority who wanted to worship the golden calf and instead lead them back toward God. Later when God was calling a new king to replace Saul, everyone wanted and expected a strong hulking military type, instead they got the smallish, shepherd David. The experience of most of the Prophets also confirms this regard of God’s for the majority. Those who spoke the true word of God were often at odds with the wishes of the powerful and the majority. They were more often than not imprisoned and killed by the kings for their opposition to where the nation Israel was headed. Meanwhile the house prophets, who told the king and the people what they wanted to hear were acclaimed throughout the land.
So, there is nothing particularly novel about Jesus rejecting the majority in the run up to the Crucifixion. At the beginning of the week Jesus is expected to proclaim an earthly, militaristic kingdom that will herald the overthrowing of Roman rule. It is expected by most that he will arrive on a military horse. Instead, he chooses to arrive on a donkey, the very antithesis of what the majority expected. Later that week Jesus astounds the majority of His immediate followers and lowers Himself to the lowly task of washing the feet of His followers. In the Garden, He is faced with Peter’s, and by implication the rest of the Apostle’s, willingness to use violence to defend Him. Here Jesus turns away the majority’s desire and expectation and instructs His followers to put away the sword as He heals the ear of the guard.
Follow God, Not the Crowd
If God all throughout Scripture consistently rejects the majority as being counter to His plan, what does that teach us? Clearly, we should not care a whit about the majority either, care for specific individuals, always, but a show of hands, never. Our call is to follow God’s will for our lives and that has precious little to do with the majority. It is a simple path that God would have us walk but that does not make it easy. It is difficult precisely because it is so often unpopular. Loving everyone, including your enemies will never carry a majority, working ceaselessly for peace will not either and neither will make you very popular. In fact, given the history of house prophets in Scripture, we can almost measure the quality of our faith walk by how unpopular it is.
The truth is that God has little use for the majority. Oh, of course, He cares for all of us as unique, individual children and loves us beyond measure. But He knows full well that the majority is not likely to want a substantial relationship with Him or to seriously attempt to follow the path He has set out for the good of humanity. That is why He has mostly been concerned with the remnant. It’s kind of like in Luke 17:11-19 when Jesus heals ten with leprosy but only one returns to thank Him. He knows that is likely to be the reality.
This Easter let’s endeavor to be the one who returns to thank Jesus for the healing He has infused into our lives, let’s be part of the remnant not the majority. Let’s remember that we do not need a majority and see clearly what the majority hath wrought in this world. We only need One. One God, one savior, who died one time for our sins to be forgiven once for All time. We need only one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, to live one life in service to God. If we learn and live this just once in our lives, that will be enough
Praise Be to God