In the triumphal entry Jesus finally lets the disciples fully indulge in their insufficient messianic fantasies. All throughout his ministry the disciples have been attempting to found Jesus’ kingdom upon the age of decay. This motley, politically and religiously diverse band of underlings have all shared dreams of an angelic powered, maccabbean revolt against the hated and brutal Roman occupation. Finally, at last, Yhwh will save his people from their house-arrest type exile and their going to a Yahwist temple disney-land and they they just can’t wait.
Part of why Jesus lets them run with it is because one one level it is all true and in this one instance he’ll allow them additional indulgence of their deceiptful ideals because within that week they will be crushed beyond their nightmares and bewildered in a hopefully confused way beyond anything they are prepared for.
In all fairness Jesus has been only clear with them, but that kind of clarity is like a bright light waking a heavy sleeper. Ever since the beginning he was announcing in word and miraculous power the end of the age of decay and that its end is found in him alone. That, however, was and is simply a message that we struggle to comprehend in any way possible.
Now Jesus initiates the untying of the donkey, comes down the Mt. of Olives infused with Zechariah imagery of Yhwh coming and rescuing his people from the tyranny of the nations. Pharisees will protest, but at this point the author of creation 1.0 simply must receive is praise from it. A blind beggar cried out to the Son of David in Jericho wishing to see, if disciples didn’t praise the stones themselves would cry out.
Peace on earth was announced at his birth. Peace in heaven is now announced at the advent to the geographic center of Davidic promise.
Jesus’ disciples, like all of us, are junkies on the age of decay. The manifest spendor even of this frustrated creation is still capable of fascinating us and eliciting worship from us, which is exactly the point of Commandments 1 and 2 and Romans 1. We have organized the entire world around attempting to build our house upon sand and using some form of religion or another to try to leverage God’s cooperation in our futile effort.
Why are all of these efforts futile? Rule #1 of the age of decay: nothing built within it lasts. This is why Jesus tells Pilate “my kingdom is not FROM this world!” Any kingdom from this age will crumble.
Jesus now lets them have a really big fix. This is the hit of crack religion they have all been dreaming of, and Jesus lets them do it because the crash they are about to receive will need to be sufficient to make them needy enough to not flee the resurrected Lord like some group of temple guard hirelings. They will need to not run FROM the tomb but TOWARDS the tomb to wonder about the angel’s message and the empty burial linen.
We today stand in their shoes but with far less excuse. We too are idolatrously trying to hobble together some religious plan to create for ourselves a kingdom in the age of decay. We like some dim toddler fall for the same stupid trick every time. Remember Rule #1 of the age of decay? Nothing lasts that is built upon it. Jesus comes to us and says “hey, silly kingdom builders, follow me. Nothing that has not died can be raised.”
Jesus is the trail blazer that establishes the trail and leads the refugees from the age of decay, through the cross, out of the empty tomb into the promised land where all that was built within (not upon) the age of decay in his name has somehow endured and been perfected in the age to come.
One of the most dangerous things God can give us in the age of decay is success. Success tempts us into the delusion of the world that something enduring can be built UPON the age of decay but that breaks rule #1.
Some good news is that even bad news in the age of decay if that Lamb is in sight can be turned to our good because it re-orients us to the reality and the makes us a bit aware of the delusion we have once again fallen prey to.
All we need to point our nose in the right direction is the kind of unanswered, red faced, crying out in pain of prayer that we hate but is often the only indication that we are at all in touch with the disaster of the age of decay. These are prayers that God can use, much better than our prideful prayers that we imagine will be productive because God will be impressed by our morality, eloquence or loyalty. We forget what God repeated how many times in the Bible that he loves a broken and a contrite heart. We keep such displayes behind closed doors, but the Holy Spirit takes such prayers and turns them into a symphony of fragrant offerings the likes of which we couldn’t imagine constructing in our most eloquent or “anointed” moments.
In these cruciform moments we begin to see through the fur coats beyond the back of the wardrobe.
The older we get, the worse things get, the more available we are to these glimpses. That’s why we find saints in nursing homes and hospital beds, some of them like Mabel.
Part of me is deeply revolted and abhors this reality but another part is comforted by it. The one thing the age of decay reliably delivers is suffering but through the cross this suffering can deliver resurrection and not simply futility. From the perspective of the Assembler of Ecclesiastes those mirages are what he sees under the sun, but this side of Easter joy can begin.