Palm Sunday 2017
April 9, 2017
“Suffering; Simon the Zealot”
My dear friends,
The Crossroads of life. They are there for all of us. We may move along from day to day, sometimes a struggle and sometimes we live easily, walking in the sunshine, enjoying the view and the light breeze off the Gulf, feeling at peace. And then it comes. A crossroad. A choice point. There we stand, frozen to the spot. Which way now? Right? Left? Straight? Which way does our heart call us to go? Which makes sense? Which is God’s way? The answers aren’t easy. A crossroad can bring daunting emotional, relational, and even spiritual pain. And it can bring us to our knees. It can even bring us to destruction.
This Lenten season we have “heard” from Pilate, Malchus, Peter, and John. Today we have an expert on the crossroad that Jesus faced as he moved toward the cross. We have a Simon, a disciple of Jesus who was with him throughout his years of ministry and at the last, as he went toward the cross. This Simon is not Simon Peter. This is Simon, sometimes called the Zealot.
Zealot? You would probably say rebel or revolutionary. I had joined a group seeking to get rid of the Romans by any means necessary. Some of my group were marked as wanted by the Roman authorities for acts of what you might call “terrorism.” The rest of us were quieter about our desire to see Rome out of our country and out of our lives; I “flew under the radar and kept a low profile.” But I kept my eyes open and ears open and finger on the pulse waiting for the next potential leader to come along…a leader who would fulfill our purpose. And then Jesus came along.
At first, I was not sure how to act, but then I came upon Jesus of Nazareth. Here was one with power and authority, one who could act. I saw him feed thousands. I saw him still a storm. I saw him escape the religious leaders who were stooges and flunkeys of the Roman government. He kept talking about the coming of the Kingdom of God; now THAT’S something people will get behind. I wanted to be in on that kingdom. I thought he could do it.
I was so sure he was going to overthrow the Romans and establish the new rule of our ancestor King David. I was not alone. Most of his disciples were hoping for a new ruler and thought Jesus could be that ruler. Look at what we were seeing. Jesus was immensely popular. People flocked to him. Thousands sought him out. His name was on every lip when he raised Lazarus. Then he did exactly what we thought he should do, he paraded into Jerusalem on a donkey, just like the Scriptures said the new king would do.
You should have seen it! It was beautiful! He came into Jerusalem on that donkey with the shouts of people proclaiming him the Messiah, the new king. They shouted a kingly greeting, they threw their cloaks in his way, they called out: “Hosanna!” God saves! At that moment, he could have been everything we wanted him to be. He could have called the people to rebellion – to pick up a sword, spear, rock, anything! – he could have moved the masses against the Romans, against the corrupt religious rulers, but …
I understand now, but I did not then. I did not understand how a leader with his authority, with his place as the chosen one of God, with his connection with the Father, could fail to act. How could he do nothing but drive some money-changers out of the temple? And after that, nothing. Completely missed our window of opportunity! We did nothing…well, nothing except share the Passover meal and go to the Garden to pray. No speech to the crowd, no commands to act, no call to arms. And worst of all, when we went to the Garden, he was arrested and moved to trial before the High Priest…at night of all times. Who ever heard of a trial in the middle of the night?
I was in complete confusion then. I saw Jesus, with the chance to be ruler, choose to allow himself to be arrested, choose to allow himself to be taken to a mock trial, choose to allow himself to be humiliated before the council and before the filthy (spit) Roman governor, choose to go meekly to the cross. How could he make the choice to suffer and die? Inconceivable.
You know, Jesus once said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:39). Who talks like that, right? But after his resurrection I understood. When he invited us into his kingdom, he was not asking us into a place of rule on earth, he was inviting us into a spiritual kingdom, marked by believers who would follow him, even to the cross.
The cross. Talk about a crossroad, right? Then we ALL had to make a decision. We had to decide whether to continue to follow the risen Christ or seek another leader who might give you the success in rebellion. Yes, I faced that crossroad. So did all the other disciples. We could have gone our own way, sought our own successes, found what we thought we needed. But we chose to stay with him. Every single one of us to a man. That’s what resurrection can do to you. By the power of the Spirit we stayed, even though we knew that it might cost us our lives. How ironic was that? I wanted to take as many Romans lives as possible, but now willing to give my own life in discipleship. Jesus warned us that we would be persecuted, hated and even put to death, but we joined him in his choice, we chose to follow. He was right; all of us but John were martyred.
Sure, maybe you have not walked with Jesus, seen his miracles, heard his voice like we did. How can you make that kind of choice? Oh, but you have seen him in the hands of those who have loved and helped you. You have seen his miracles in the hearts of those changed by his power. You have heard his voice in the voice of those who have brought you the Word. You have been touched by the same Spirit and can make the same choice. It isn’t easy to choose the way of discipleship if it leads to dissention, danger, oppression, suffering. From eternity’s standpoint, it’s the only choice to make.
A fellow Apostle, not disciple, St. Paul wrote: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us …And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” With that kind of power going for us, how can we fail, right? You say YOU want a revolution? (Cross) There it is. Thanks for your time friends.
Indeed, how can we fail? “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39).
Welcome to Holy Week in the year of our Lord 2017. Amen.