It was 2 AM, my 3 sons were in headlamps, I had a giant bag filled with water bottles and we were lost. My husband had an adventure planned for us to see a massive meteor shower and we were full of excitement as we traveled to the dark sky park. We went vertically through the woods following trail markers and discovered the real meaning of darkness. Two hours of hiking in the dark only brought us an encounter with coyotes and we left the woods searching for our entrance path. We watched the meteor shower from blankets laid out on the parking lot and I was completely exhausted from uncertain wandering. We were in the wilds of darkness and had to find our way to the parking lot in order to be found. My family did have an adventure but it was not the adventure I was expecting.
As we continue on this In the Wilds Lenten journey, it is important to melt our expectations of the Jesus we meet in scripture. Jesus prepares for his entrance into Jerusalem by asking his disciples to find the donkey colt he knows is there. Jesus knows the disciples will run into opposition and tells them to say “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately” (Mark 11:3b NRSV) Jesus has set the table for a humble entrance and intentionally enters Jerusalem in a rag tag parade. The disciples must have stood in amazement as they obeyed Jesus and saw the reality of who they served. Jesus is one who knows what is ahead and there is not a wasted moment.
The cries of the people give a picture of their expectations. These palm branch wavers were certain that this “Son of David” would behave in a manner that lined up with their vision of Messiah. They cry “Hosanna” and blare out “Please save us Lord” because this particular parade comes with a request of Jesus. They do not shout “Hallelujah” in praise but they shout a prayer for salvation. Collectively, the attenders of this parade are asking for the very reason why Jesus came to Jerusalem. They just did not know that their salvation would come in the form of the Son of David being crucified. The people tell us who Jesus is: Blessed, the one who comes in the name of the Lord, and the coming kingdom of our ancestor David. They shout Hosanna (please save us) and are excited that Messiah is here. This excitement turns to rage when they shout “Crucify Him!” a few days later. “Hosanna” and “Crucify Him” turn out to be two prongs of the same cry to God.
Jesus looks around him after entering the city. This pause that Mark describes give us an insight that Jesus knows this is a significant moment in his walk on earth. He has just experienced adulation and heard the names of truth coming that he is Messiah. He has humbly entered Jerusalem as a teacher and not a king. But Jesus knows. Jesus knows that this moment is the start of a week filled with physical pain and emotional torment. Jesus knows that Friday is coming and he will be alone on a cross. Jesus knows that today’s parade is a moment of joy in a difficult week. Jesus knows he came to earth to save and that salvation lives in the moment of his physical death. Jesus looks around the city so he can remember this still moment in the temple before he is accused. As Jesus starts his week In the Wilds, he pauses because even Jesus needs to reflect. Palm Sunday brings to a point of celebrating Jesus with loud shouts of Hosanna. We stand in our sanctuaries and wave palm branches as we anticipate the celebration that’s coming the following Sunday. Our Hosannas will turn into He is Risen! on Easter Sunday. But the Jesus of Palm Sunday does not bask in the glow of praise. Jesus takes a moment to look at where his path will come full circle, knowing he will stand accused in the same temple where he stands.
We have an incredible moment as we navigate this Lenten journey In the Wilds. Let’s be like Jesus and take a moment to find where we started our journey in the darkness. We can pause and look around at the path behind and the path ahead. Even if that pathway is full darkness we do not have to fear the darkness over taking our journey. We always had a headlamp turned on throughout the journey and that light of Jesus continually explodes our tiny expectations.am