John 12:12-19

I recently talked to a woman who lost her husband four years ago. She believes that he has been raised to new life with Jesus. She believes there is yet new life for her too somewhere in the “one step forward, two steps back” journey of grief she walks. Sometimes she feels Christ is with her but sometimes all she feels is pain. “It’s one thing to believe it and another thing to live it,” she told me.

The disciples can’t understand what Jesus has said until they experience it. Jesus told them that being glorified as God’s “anointed one,” or Messiah, will require his own death. But when the crowds greet this Son of God who raised Lazarus like they would celebrate a warrior king of old, the disciples let the loud “hosannas” carry them into cognitive dissonance. With this kind of crowd reaction, they think, surely this Jerusalem trip will turn out better than expected. 

Jesus, however, understands what is happening. He mounts a donkey, signaling that he will not fight their battles, nor rule as their king, at least not in any way that they expect. No one understands until after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection that their salvation could only come through his humiliation, which is what self-giving love always looks like to the uninitiated. 

Even for those of us who know the rest of the story, Palm (or Passion) Sunday remains a day of cognitive dissonance. Despite what we profess to be true, we hope that Jesus doesn’t really mean what he says about having to die before being resurrected.

Until we experience the death that comes to us, or the self-death we choose with Jesus, we can’t fully understand what it means to be saved by Christ who suffered and comes to meet us in our suffering. 


In what ways do you tend to deny Jesus’ suffering? In what ways do you tend to deny your own?


Crucified Messiah, meet me here this Holy Week. Save me, I beg you! Not from my suffering but from my despair. Amen.

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