When Jesus entered Jerusalem amid the cries of “Liberate us! Rescue us! Now! Today!” He once again zigged when mob mentality preferred He zag and have done with it. Our Savior who was there when beasts of burden were created, gently nudged the animal on which He was riding to go right when all of the Passover throng urged Him left.
Had He gone left, the road would have taken Him to the Fortress of Antonias, the residence of Pilate who was then governor of Judea. You can almost imagine the egress of humanity as it parted to give their conquering king leeway to lead the revolution Rome-ward. Get Rome out of our Home! signs, if there were such, would say. The waving of palm branches and the rubbing of palms would intermingle buoyed by the hoots and hollers of antsy renegades long tired of Gentile occupation.
But He turned right instead.
“Where’s He going? Jesus! Jesus! Wrong way!”
“Left, we say!”
But the butt end of a donkey spoke volumes. Its right flank told the fed-up malcontents that this King may not be their king after all. Where was He going? Oh wait, I know, some thought. Optimism rising: He’s gonna do a victory lap around the city BEFORE He rides into the jaws of Gentile dominion. But they were wrong.
Gently coaxing the beast onward through the thickening atmosphere of suspicion and burgeoning alarm, the Teacher wended His way past the curious and the quietened. Mouths were hanging open and palm branches drooped, tips touching the stone and sand of the city. Whispers carried over the tops of heads and more than a few voices raised in faltered protest, still not exactly sure what this quasi-king was up to.
The Temple. Oh, sure, He needs to go into the Temple for a blessing before He confronts the enemy. So they thought.
The outer court of the Temple proper was filled with turtledoves, pigeons, lambs and rams. Moneychangers had their booths set up all over the area and as Jesus dismounted, a strange and deadly fire billowed in His eyes. He looked upon the carnivalian sight with disgust and wasted little time finding some cords with which to fashion whips. If no one had been watching and wondering up until now, they were certainly doing just that in this moment. What was He going to do? Wait! The whips must be for the backs of the oppressors!
With zeal no one had seen until this time, the Christ’s arms flashed out tentacles of cord against the backs of the moneylenders and court shysters. The tips never touched animal flesh but how they snaked and bit into the cloth and skin of those who were turning this sacred ground into their operations of greed and blasphemy. How the Son of Man whirled in furious passion, a blur of blazing authority! Howling out protests agains such unrequited insolence, these merchants of mayhem ran for the exits and straight into the waiting arms of the planners of the carpenter’s demise.
Fast forward several days.
Pilate stands before the mob, irritated and incredulous at their fickleness. How could the same people who lauded and applauded this pitiful Man a few days earlier now want His blood to run down the sewers of the city? Can anyone figure out these lunatics? He called for a man named Jesus to be brought forward, a terrorist imprisoned for atrocities against Roman soldiers. Standing him beside another Man named Jesus, he said:
“Which Jesus do you want?”
You see, One Jesus had said to anyone who would listen for three years that He had come from His Father and most if not all knew exactly what He meant. He was saying quite literally He was the sent-One from God, God in human flesh, the One this nation had been waiting for, prophesied for centuries, and He was here, now.
The other Jesus was one who spoke their language and gave them exactly what they wanted. Few know his first name was Jesus but most know him as Bar-abbas, translated: the son of his father, and both stood side by side before the world, as it were, and, except for a shockingly small number, most chose the one who would give them immediate satisfaction. They wanted the freedom-fighter, not the Giver of Freedom. They wanted the one who whipped the Romans, not the Jews.
And so Jesus was tried, convicted and crucified. All because He turned right instead of left.
There are so many ways to take this but I want to submit that much of what is called the church today, had it been living in that era, would, I fear, blend into that fickle mob, choosing a left-turn Jesus rather than a right-turn Lord. Many do not want a Supreme King to reign over them but they are fired-up silly for a God who will give them what they want.
Peter himself, in a fit of schizonphrenia, told Jesus to turn left just weeks from Passion week, way up in the foothills of Mt. Hermon near Caesarea Philippi (see Matt. 16:21-22). Jesus told the disciples ahead of time which way He would turn, but Peter said, “NO! Not on my watch You won’t!” You see, Peter couldn’t stand the thought of Jesus dying—for a variety of reasons, some of them subtle, some not-so. I think that the impulsive fisherman innately knew Jesus’ death meant his own would surely follow.
That’s the church, or at least what passes for the church today. We want left, left, left! But Jesus is turning right. See Him? And if we are His people, we need to go that way too.
Must Jesus bear the cross alone
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone
And there’s a cross for me.
The consecrated cross I’ll bear
Till death shall set me free;
And then go home my crown to wear
For there’s a crown for me!
This post inspired by David Pawson’s teaching, “The Uniqueness of Christ”