Some years ago I enjoyed the privilege of traveling around the world. I attended meetings in Hong Kong, Vancouver, Dresden and Durban to name a few destinations. Each time I received information from a selected travel agent outlining options including airfare and lodging. We could also choose tourist options before, during and after. These "add-ons" gave the privilege to intentionally explore sights unseen. No accidental tourists. You could say in retrospect we went where we said we intended to go.
Thoughts from Palm Sunday continue to roll around in my mind and heart. Passages like "And Jesus resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem" highlight the intention of Jesus to go to Jerusalem. He repeatedly tells the disciples he would suffer many things at the hands of his enemies. There were after all many who would be happy with his death. Enemies want the worst for those whom they oppose.
We tend to stray away from those who want to bring us harm. The picture of Jesus riding into Jerusalem toward those who sought his death is often diminished as we attempt to reconcile the effects of his death with we who may have also sought to bring him harm. Many Easter musicals put choir members in the position of cheering then jeering. We tell those who come to hear us preach that we too would have called for his death. What gets lost in this telling is the living out of the very words Jesus spoke when he gave the Sermon on the Mount.
The series of six "But I say to you statements" in Matthew chapter 5 undermine a rightness proffered by the Pharisees; nothing more than saying without doing. Jesus told those who would follow Him into Kingdom living their rightness must exceed such expressions. Just what does that look like? Jesus spent the following period of time until his death and resurrection illustrating life in the Kingdom – life that exhibited a rightness exceeding the Scribes and Pharisees.
I continue to be struck by the last of the six statements, "You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.’ But I say to you, "Love your enemies." The cerebral nature of scholastic religious expression paint this maxim so as to as carefully define what loving one’s enemies looks like as those in Jesus’ day tried narrowly define neighbors.
Could we turn our attention back to Jesus rather than find ourselves in the revelry of the frenzied crowd shouting, "Crucify Him," long enough to see Jesus giving expression to his very words? The ride into Jerusalem serves more than just the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophetic word. The trip contains all the elements of Jesus’ charge to those who would follow Him into the Kingdom on that mountainside. He instructs us to pray for our enemies and so He prays lamenting Jerusalem’s lack of "ears to hear." He prays for His enemies who gamble for his clothing, "Father, forgive them."
Jesus was no accidental tourist. But to reduce his journey to the cross as solely a means to get to his death is yet one more indication we overlook His life. We today need not be accidental tourists. Instead we would do well to follow Jesus into a love for our enemies that results in resurrected lives.