The Triumphal Entry is a watershed moment in the ministry of Jesus. It is His Rubicon. Once he arrives in Jerusalem, there is no looking back. Only forward to the cross.
Believers see that cross as the price to be paid for the redemption of the world. His motivation was love for His fallen creation. Jesus crossed this line and faced the cross because He was willing to pay the price of real love.
And make no mistake, real love is not only about receiving or exchanging for our personal benefit. There are seasons when real love is very costly.
So costly that in a short term view, it does not "pay off." For a period of time, love can run a deficit of joy, and a surplus of pain. The scripture is clear, while there was great joy set before Jesus as His final goal, He would first face great "shame, enduring the cross." (Hebrews 12:2)
Any long term relationship - friendship, employment, parenthood, marriage - will give us abundant examples of this cost of love. We hit seasons where there is more pain than joy. At some point, we may be unable go on with such a cost imbalance and the relationship collapses. Divorce, estrangement, or just moving on to a new job or friends is our response of survival. We "close the books" because we could not continue running such a deficit of joy and things are over.
Hopefully, in the midst of that season of deficit, something will reverse the direction. We speak a word of repentance or forgiveness. We gain an insight into our own hardness of heart or churlishness. We see a partner in a different light and serve them in a new way. Somehow, one or both people experience a change and there is a resurgence of joy, affirmation and hope. Now joy is building its surplus and the pain diminishes in size.
With the Triumphal Entry, Jesus sets Himself to face a season where His great love will cost Him in the short-term far more than it will return. He commits to pay the high price of love for each one of us.
The Gospel is this: that Jesus saw the cost of His love, and willingly stepped forward to offer His live and pay that cost. He struggled in Gethsemane, but He did not turn back. There is One who loved me without reservation, at great cost to Himself.
Now, having been loved, I am set free to more freely love the others in my life. I can face my own seasons of relational deficit - when love costs more than it pays - with a different strength and resource. Real love may call me to pay a price in a relationship - to speak a word of truth to a friend, to confront the violence of hidden and rationalized abuse, to face my own selfishness with repentance and new commitment to serve my partner. From this moment, I may see the cost before me, even be overwhelmed by the potential cost of pursuing real love, but I am renewed to pursue the end, even in face of the cost. I have a hope that comes not from my resources, but from His.
Because of the Gospel, I don't have to pay that price in order to be loved by God. I am loved. And having been loved, I am set free to more freely love the others in my life. I have new resources to pay a price in the relationships around me.
My Alcoholics Anonymous friends have an expression. When I wanted to respond with gratitude for some kindness received by them, I was told, "Pay it back by passing it on." Sort of the AA version of "freely you received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)
Too often I find my heart to be like a dragon sitting atop its horde of gold with defensive, calculating watchfulness. I look at my own self-made worth and breathe fire on anything or anyone who threatens it. Grace points out my tiny pile of pennies and shows me the mountain of gold that Jesus declares mine. The defensive dragon melts, and a generosity can now grow because it gives from a different source. Not my resources, but those received from Him.
Help me to see where my heart is hiding.
- Where I pull back from relationships.
- Where I avoid conflict.
- Where I have ceased to love.
- Fearful of being unable to pay the cost of love in a relationship
- Shamed by the deficit that I have cost in a relationship that I cherish
- Exhausted from a long season of deficit placed on me
As I love others, help me now look not to my own tarnished or dwindling resources, but to the richness of Jesus - who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. With humble thankfulness, Amen