Sunday, April 05, 2009
Palm Sunday - How to keep the Messiah out! (A meditation)
What a wonderful day. Jesus entered through the gates shown in the picture here. It is called the Mercy gate, or the Golden gate to Christians. It was the gate through which the Messiah was going to enter according to Jewish belief. It was to be this gate, because it led straight to the Temple. Jesus was treated like royalty, connected to the great king David in people’s songs. He entered the correct gate. And we know the story. The crowds turned and within a week, this same Jesus was crucified. They did not see him as the Messiah anymore, and neither would their children or children’s children.
In 1540, the Ottoman empire (under Suleiman the Magnificent) captured Jerusalem. He heard about this Messiah (Anointed One) who would come from the line of David and retake the throne. How do you keep the Messiah out? Well, block the gates. And so he used the heaviest stones and plaster to seal this entrance. He had to make sure that these gates would not be opened – ever again! In 1541 Suleiman the Magnificent blocked the gates. Let’s not be too pious in thinking that we do not do the same. Blocking the gates of our hearts to the love of God is a common thing. Holding on to things that we know are wrong, yet cannot quite convince ourselves that Jesus needs to enter here, is a remedy to keeping him from overturning some holy tables – the untouchables. But you know what Suleiman? You know what friend? This Messiah entered through these gates long before we even thought we could block his passage. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.
Suleiman wanted to be double sure that no uprising was going to take place. He knew that no Jew could walk through a cemetery, so he started burying people right in front of the gate, creating very visible gravestones, to let anybody know that this place is a no-go area for any upright Jew.These a visible to this day. As if blocking our hearts to God’s presence is not enough, we try to convince ourselves and God that this is no place for God to enter. The tombstones declaring to God that I am way down the line in my sinfulness for God to even consider stepping foot on this soil. My habits are too entrenched for God to consider me a viable person to be redeemed, my falleness too severe for God to even come close. But Suleiman, dear friend, Jesus entered through these gates long before you could ever bury the skeletons of your past in front of these gates.
Look at this picture today and imagine that this is a picture of your soul. Ask yourself: What have I used to block the gates to my heart? What material did I use to make sure the love of God does not enter through to the center of my being?
What have I planted in front of the gate, the excuses, the behavioural patterns, the habits, to make sure the Messiah will not enter here?
Here is the Good news: He is already inside. He is the one who does not only walk through cemeteries, He is the one who is risen from the grave. He is not held out by doors and locks, for He is the one who meets his disciples, his followers while they hid behind locked doors.
Happy Palm Sunday.