“When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
(Luke 9:51, NRSV)
From Luke 9:51 forward, Jesus calculates his every move to culminate at the cross. There, he will conquer sin. Three days later, God will overcome death through his resurrection. His mission to overthrow the principalities and powers that bind us is laser-focused, allowing nothing to distract him from accomplishing the work of salvation for anyone who believes in him. No one or thing can divert Jesus from fulfilling his journey to the cross because his love for you and me drives him.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ symbolic yet triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. The pageantry of the crowds waving palm branches as they line the road he takes into the city is more than symbolic. They welcome their king, the one whom God has anointed to assume the throne and free the people from their Roman oppressors. He is on a donkey instead of a stallion, the traditional mount for a coming king, which means little to the expectant crowd. This discrepancy is the first sign that the kingdom Jesus brings is not one whose power lies in coercion; instead, his motivation is love.
With each passing day that Jesus failed to overthrow the Roman rulers, the people became more restless and agitated. By Friday, they’ve had enough of Jesus’ meek and mild style of kingship, and they demand his execution, letting the murdering insurrectionist, Barabbas, go free so that Jesus can die in his place.
Jesus’ determination to stay the course was necessary, not because the Romans could stop him from accomplishing his mission, but because he knew God’s design for saving his people would disappoint them and their vengeful, retaliatory dreams. As he carried out God’s plan of humbly dying on the cross for their sins, they would desert him in search of another king who uses power and might to destroy the opposition. We see this dynamic at work in our political leaders today, who are more than willing to give us what we want instead of what we need. They appeal to our basest desires, baiting us with promises they cannot keep, just to stay in power. Jesus was determined to give us what we needed, and God vindicated the humiliation of the cross with the resurrection. When we wholeheartedly trust God’s ways, we will be fully and finally free. I’m determined to follow Jesus wherever he leads. How about you?