The Power to Change

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. – John 13:3-5

On that first “Palm Sunday” tensions were running high in Jerusalem as the Passover Festival approached. Thousands of Jewish pilgrims from around the region were crowding into the city. Many of them had, no doubt, heard about Jesus and their hopes were high that Jesus was the promised Messiah who would finally destroy the Romans who had occupied and controlled their land for nearly 100 years. Meanwhile, the Romans were on high alert. They were on order to keep the “Pax Romana”, the Roman Peace, at all costs because conflict stopped commerce, and without commerce the Romans weren’t making money.

So, picture the scene on that first Palm Sunday. From the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, rode a white horse, leading a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers into Jerusalem. They wore armor and carried spears and swords. They represented both the Roman Empire and Caesar, the one who claimed to be lord and savior of the world. Their message that day was clear: there will be peace, even if blood must be shed to make it so.

From the east, Jesus rode toward Jerusalem. He did not ride a war horse, but a donkey, an ancient symbol of humility and peace. And he did not lead a band of soldiers. He led fishermen and tax collectors. Jesus also represented a Kingdom, but not a Kingdom of this world. Jesus also bore the title “Lord and Savior of the world”. He came to bring peace, a peace that required bloodshed, but not bloodshed due to the violence of swords and spears. Jesus would bring peace through a very different kind of power. In just a few days he would wash his disciples’ feet, and then surrender his life on a cross. And in so doing Jesus would teach the world a lesson that we have been resistant to learn: the power to change the world, the power to make lasting peace is love and self-sacrifice. Let me say that again: the power to change the world, the power to make lasting peace is love and self-sacrifice.

As we journey through this Holy Week please consider the implications of that profound truth. What change do you want to see in your relationships? Your church? Your community? Your nation? This broken world? How can you follow Jesus’ example as you pursue the kinds of changes that reveal the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven”?

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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