My pastor asked a question on Sunday. Simply:
“Where will you be on Friday?”
It wasn’t a friendly inquisition or even an invitation to our special Good Friday service. It was more of an indictment of my soul. He asked it in the context of the story of the Triumphal Entry, as we call it (Matthew 21:1-17)—what Palm Sunday is all about. The peoples described in the Triumphal Entry are zealous for Jesus. They shout, as my pastor put it, with revolutionary tone. They are ready to overthrow Rome, to fight with Jesus, to die for him. The disciples line the donkey–Jesus’ generals at arms. Peter’s sword is sharpened, poised and ready to take on the enemy.
But where does Jesus march? Straight into the temple. The heart of the revolution! And drives out the money-changers and the pigeon salesmen saying, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” His actions and his words convey the message: “The problem is not out there. The problem is in here.” Jesus came to conquer the enemy alright: the enemy of sin and self-righteousness. Indeed, where will you be on Friday?
We know the story already. Nobody: not the blind men who were healed, the lame men who could now walk, the children who sang his praises, the palm wavers, nor even his disciples; nobody was at Jesus’ side on Friday. They all fled. Why? Fear of course, but also a complete misunderstanding of who he was and what he came to do. And don’t we still misunderstand? We think we know who the enemy is. It’s my boss or “those liberals” or cancer or Satan himself. We stand with Jesus, waving his flag with revolutionary tone: “Down with the enemy!”
But when Jesus marches into the temple of our hearts and start messing things up–convicting us of self-righteousness, showing us where we’re self-serving, pointing out our failings–we bristle don’t we? We’d rather Jesus fix our external problems than deal with what’s inside. And then, sometimes our circumstances not only don’t get better, they get worse! Life is terribly painful and we almost feel like we’re being crucified with Christ.
And that’s when we should ask ourselves: “Where will I be on Friday?” When the going gets tough, when you can’t see the forest for the trees, when your idea of success has flown out the window, when your hero is convicted of blasphemy and is put on trial to be crucified, where will you be? Can you believe that God is sovereign over everything? Can I?
I ponder these things and know that I would not have been nobler than the disciples. I would’ve been right there, cowering under that bush or behind that tree. But God’s grace is so magnificent, we know that eventually they did believe and understand. Jesus left his empowering and comforting Spirit and by him we also can know that God is sovereign over all things. He is sovereign over the temple of my heart, my circumstances, this world, and everything in it.
Soli Deo Gloria