Mistaken Identity
Matthew 21:1-11
A Meditation for Palm Sunday
March 20, 2016

There is a wonderful old story about a little boy who lived roughly a century ago during the period of time when traveling circuses still frequented small towns. The boy had seen an advertisement for such a traveling troupe and wanted desperately to go and see the circus when it came to town the following Saturday.

The little boy’s family lived on a farmer far from town and he rarely left their property and had never seen a circus before. But, he told his father about this rare opportunity and seeing the excitement in the little boy’s eyes, the father agreed that if he could complete his chores during the early part of the following Saturday, then the boy could have the rest of the day for the circus.

When that fateful Saturday dawned, the boy was up with the sun and quickly had completed his day’s tasks and dressed in his finest clothes as if it were time for Sunday church. The father, true to his word, gave the boy a crisp dollar bill, the most money that the little boy had every seen, patted him on the head and told his son to enjoy his day.

When the boy reached town, he noticed that people were already lining the street. You can imagine his amazement and how wide his eyes became when he saw the animals and the entertainers parading down the lane. He saw lions, tigers and elephants. The entertainers in their bright costumes and with their exotic looks mesmerized him. And, of course, the clowns already decked out in their makeup, red hair, oversized clothes and big floppy shoes captivated him. The parade of the circus into the town and toward the big top was literally overwhelming to the little boy and it all filled his heart with great joy.

At this moment, the little boy did something quite unexpected. When the last clown began to stroll past the block where the boy stood and as people began to walk away, the little boy reached into his pocket, pulled out that crisp dollar bill that his father had given him and handed it to that final clown. When he had done so, the boy turned away and began to walk away from the scene back toward home.

Having never seen a circus before, the little boy mistook the parade for the actual event. He left town, thinking he had seen the circus but in truth he had only seen the parade.

This in a nutshell, is the question that we must all come face to face with on this day. Have we given ourselves over only to the parade or have we committed ourselves to the real thing? Like the people on that first Palm Sunday, have we cashed in our lives while falling prey to the pandemonium, the bright lights, the easy way to the success, the trappings of crowd and or even to a false Jesus mainly focused on the thrills of the moment or confined to a faith that is nothing more than silly statements we can put on our car bumpers or paste on our Facebook pages while claiming to be a deep person of faith but really being hollow and shallow inside?

Or have we given our life over to the real thing that is much more costly, much more about a life, not a moment of discipleship, much less popular and yet much more satisfying?

This day is about the difference between a false Jesus and the real thing. Which have we chosen and which have we given our very lives too? Amen.
The story of the little boy comes from John Claypool in his book The Light Within You, Word, 1983, pages 156-157.