Follow Jesus (Palm Sunday)
Today's devotional comes from "Falling Into Goodness," a book of Lenten reflections by Chuck DeGroat. You can purchase the entire book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.
Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The journey began with these words: You are dust and to dust you shall return. If you recall, these are words of beauty and goodness, words that invite you back into your original creatureliness, your inherent limitations, the ground of your being – your “enoughness” as God’s imager-bearer.
You may recall, also, that our journey has taken us into the in-the-flesh life of Jesus, who became human, who took on human limitations without regret. Jesus – so committed to you that from the very beginning he’s been searching you out, coming for you, eager to redeem and restore, to dwell with you and in you, by the Spirit.
Can you follow this Jesus? He’s not driving a BMW. He’s not accompanied by the Secret Service. He’s not dressed in his Sunday best.
Can you follow this Jesus? He’s not a king like other kings.
Can you follow this Jesus? He doesn’t care how impressed you are.
In those days, to follow someone was to become more like that person, to embody their character and virtue, their teachings and actions. For three years the disciples followed Jesus, but if you check their record it’s full of infighting and comparison. That’s because following someone like Jesus is a lifelong, intentional, transformational, and (need I say it again!) often painful process.
We become what we follow. And so who do you follow? What do you follow? Where are your habits being formed? And are you open to going in a new direction, following the One who will take you places you never dared explore?
If I’m honest, I’m not sure. I mean, what will it cost? I’ve got a life to live and bills to pay and daughters to send to college. I want to sell books and be admired. I want the appearance of following, but not the cost.
But here is the gratifying goodness of it all – to become more like Jesus is to become more ourselves. Thomas Merton wrote, “To be born again is not to become somebody else but to become ourselves.”[i] All this talk of dying to ourselves is not some morbid form of self-negation. No, it’s ultimately generative and life-producing. The seed must fall to the ground and die in order to live. We must die to every other version of our-selves to become ourselves.
You see, our lives are caught up in a much larger dynamic. Our stories are best seen in and through a much larger story of union with Jesus and our sabotage of it. James Finley says it well:
On the one hand there is the great truth that from the first moment of my existence the deepest dimension of my life is that I am made by God for union with himself. The deepest dimension of my identity as a human person is that I share in God's own life both now and in eternity in a relationship of untold intimacy. On the other hand, my own daily experience impresses upon me the painful truth that my heart has listened to the serpent instead of to God. There is something in me that puts on fig leaves of concealment, kills my brother, builds towers of confusion, and brings cosmic chaos upon the earth. There is something in me that loves darkness rather than light, that rejects God and thereby rejects my own deepest reality as a human person made in the image and likeness of God.[ii]
Following Jesus on this journey, in one sense, is an affirmation of your own deepest reality as one made in God’s image. It is about finding yourself, not in some strange self-fulfillment sort of way, but in union with the life of this surrendering King.
In this week, we seek to follow Jesus.
King Jesus, your journey is simultaneously exciting and frightening for me. It seems as if it comes with a cost. But at the same time, the thought of “becoming myself” wholly in you is something that stirs my heart. Draw me further and deeper into this union and communion, I pray. Amen
[i] Thomas Merton. Choosing to Love the World: On Contemplation. Sydney: Read How You Want, 2008.
[ii] James Finley. Merton’s Palace of Nowhere (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1978).