Well, today is Palm Sunday, the anniversary of the day adoring crowds lined the main street into Jerusalem and waved Palm branches in celebration and welcome of their coming King. Ironic that if we did that today we would be arrested, but I digress.. .
The streets and the city were packed with people come for the Passover feast in the Holy City and to offer their sacrifices at the Temple of their God, like a St Paddy’s day parade in Butte MT, only with less beer.
The Israelites were ecstatic because they believed that, finally, here comes the long promised and much anticipated Messiah, the anointed king who would restore Israel to glory and power as God’s chosen people, the one who would overcome their enemies once and for all—at that point the enemy was Rome.
We find John’s eye witness account of this day in his gospel, chapter 12
The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
The King of Israel!”
14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:
Their king had come, and they would now overcome all those who persecuted them so. The Romans were oppressing them, their own priests and the Pharisees were taking advantage of them, relishing their power and getting wealthy off of them. Their puppet king Herod was abusing them, the tax collectors cheated them, as did the merchants in the temple courts.
The devil himself was abusing them, everywhere Jesus went he was driving out demons from people who were driven to do horrible things to themselves and others. Jesus delivered people from their demons, their illnesses, and even forgave their sins; giving them renewed hope, loving them when others scorned them. He even raised the dead—surely this is our King, this is our time for glory!
But Jesus had not come to overcome Rome. He came to overcome a much more fearsome and dangerous enemy, death. Death and the fear of death. Jesus came to perfect love. And he did.
Because he was perfect love. Only a perfect love could have, or would have, done what Jesus did—for us. Jesus does not only ask us to keep our eyes on him as we walk the high iron of life, he takes the pain out of the fall if we should miss a step.
In the 1st letter of the Apostle John he writes a lot about perfect love:
12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.
—1 John 4:12—20
“Love perfected—perfect love” We find perfect love four times in that section of scripture. What is perfect Love? Well, the short answer is Jesus.
Only a perfect love would have left the Father’s side in heaven, become one of us and taught us what love was even at the peril of his own life.
Only a perfect love would have ridden into Jerusalem on that humble little donkey that day knowing full well that he was a wanted man and would soon be facing a Roman cross.
Only a perfect love would have suffered and died as he did at the hands of those he loved, and begged forgiveness for those who nailed him to that cross.
Only a perfect love could have lived a life in this messed up world full of pain death and sorrow, temptations and seductions, greed and injustice, without ever having sinned.
Only a perfect love could have suffered the injustice of being falsely accused, beaten brutally for no good reason after being betrayed and abandoned by his closest friends, mocked and scorned as he suffered a horrific death on a crude wooden cross made from a tree he created.
Only a perfect love could have done all of that without ever having sinned, and knowing that he didn’t have to do it, that at any time he could have called down twelve legions of angles to take him away from the pain.
But that would have been a failure, that would have been selfish, that would have revealed a crippling fear that just did not exist in is heart, because perfect love casts out fear. And not only was Jesus perfect love, he knew he was perfectly loved by his Father and he chose to trust Him—no matter the pain.
And because of all that, perfect love raised him from the dead— perfect love overcame death. God is love, and in him there is no fear. And now that love abides in us, God abides in us.
Because he has given us of his Spirit.
How often do we forget that?
Remember what it means to abide? It means to live in, reside in, to remain somewhere. We get to live in God, to live in his love. And his love, his very Spirit, lives in us. We who have confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, have no need to fear, for love has overcome.
It is a love that we can trust infinitely.
Our King has come, and he rules in our hearts–if we choose perfect love.
And by the way, have faith, He has overcome our enemies.