A Spiritual GPS!
Journeys fascinate and these (Garmin Sat Nav) were once an essential travel accessory. Technology now gives us all the locations and directions we need from our smart phones.
The cruise ship that Margaret and I were on was hundreds of miles off the east African coast but we were on lock down because of the pirate threat- barbed wire on all the lower decks; fire hoses in position; crew members scanning the horizon 24/7; internet shut down, the ship zigzaging and the captain in continuous contact with the allied military patrols- and me with my garmin! It displayed altitude 25 metres (the height of the dec); longitude 60 degrees east latitude zero we were crossing the equator! For all the mayhem around me I knew where I was!
The same could not be said for other journeys. Albert Einstein was instantly recognisable and boarded a train from Plymouth to London. He was found by the ticket collector under his seat searching for his mislaid ticket. “Don’t worry” said the official “We know who you are and we saw you buy your ticket at Plymouth”. When the ticket collector returned up the carriage he found Einstein still searching. Despite further reassurances, the great man insisted “Without my ticket I don’t know where I’m going!”
It is good to know where you are headed! Palm Sunday is the dramatic start to the last week of Jesus’ life. It is the climax of a journey- Jesus has been travelling down the Jordan valley from Galilee; he has passed through Jericho and he has arrived via the village of Bethany in Jerusalem The Gospels say that “he set his face towards Jerusalem” He knew where he was going.
So lets get a spiritual fix on this story and ours! In our imagination take a look at the Palm Sunday journey – its geography, its history and the destination it points us perhaps to our destination also.
The view from the Mt of Olives with the old city of Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock is one of the world’s great views. From the top of the Mount of Olives you can walk down the track past the little church of the Dominus Flevit (“The Lord Wept”) At the bottom of the hill is the Kidron valley, the Garden of Gethsemane and towering above you are the 15th century walls of the Old City. Etched into those walls are the walled up entrances of the Golden Gate that faces east. Orthodox Jews believe that the Messiah will one day enter Jerusalem by that gate This was the route that Jesus took on Palm Sunday entering the city through this gate in an earlier set of walls and entering the Temple area where he challenged the rogue traders and money lenders.
There is huge significance in what Jesus did on that day as his kingship was temporarily revealed. He was for that moment a 24 hour king. Jesus was making a geographical journey, a historical journey and a spiritual journey. This is not Swift’s Lilliput; Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Rowling’s Hogworts Academy, it is about real places, real time. Real history and a real Saviour.
Jesus had made preparations for this day just as he did for the Passover meal a few days later God does not do things by chance- the situation is never out of control. He is not overtaken by events, even an epidemic, in the way we are. You may have had heard me say “History is His Story” The Gospels quote the OT prophet Zechariah. Hundreds of years earlier when Jerusalem was in ruins following the Babylonian invasion, the prophet looked forward to a time when the King would return and the kingdom be restored.
The palm branches were a sign of victory and the clothing was a sign of respect (Walter Raleigh would have approved) This is classic Biblical drama with OT allusions. There is an amusing Kenny Everett sketch where against the background of London traffic noise he announces “It is very difficult to park in London “The camera then pans back to reveal him sitting in the turret of a challenger tank which promptly goes into a parking space and crushes the mini in that space! Jesus enters not on a war horse (challenger tank) but on a humble donkey- this was not a military parade in Jerusalem’s equivalent of Red Square.
This was a prophetic signpost in the ultimate adventure of Faith- God is preparing his people for the unveiling of his plan I ask the question “have there been moments in our lives which have spiritually significant?” What kind of spiritual road map have we followed and where are we heading?.
Jesus did not want the people to see him as a military deliverer who would overthrow the Romans and he always saw the revelation of himself as someone’s opportunity This day was the nation’s opportunity and it is ours tool Bishop Leslie Newbiggin wrote that “The Gospel is Public Truth” So the question reverberates from Palm Sunday to Good Friday- what are we going to do with Jesus who is called Christ The crowd had two choices- they could accept or they could reject- but they could not do, as Pilate tried to do , wash their hands and walk away.
The message of Easter is that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are inescapable. With that in mind let us make our journey through this Holy Week.