Why rule when you can lead?

When the President comes to town, they bring the motorcade right out to Air Force One; they just drive those cars out on the runway. They have the motorcycles and black limousines with little flags on front, the police escort, flashing lights. You can envision it all. That’s just the way the American President travels.

When Jesus came into Jerusalem he came on a donkey. That is what they expected and they sang Hosanna, which isn’t just a nice little phrase of praise. It literally means “God, save now.” They were celebrating because they believed it was the day when God would rule. They wanted Jesus to rule the nations.

They wanted him to rule. We know they shouted Hosanna on this day, but we also know what they will be shouting on Friday. We know where this parade is going, and Jesus is not coming to rule. He is leading them.

It’s a curious choice Jesus makes.

Can you see their faces on that Palm Sunday — throwing their cloaks on the ground, singing, laughing and running alongside the donkey? Hosanna, they shouted, and remember it means “God, save now.” It wasn’t just a happy. 4th of July crowd; they wanted deliverance, they wanted Jesus to rule over the nations and put a check on the abuse of power; to rule in justice and righteousness, like the prophets promised.

But he wouldn’t do it and in Jesus what we have is not a portrait of power, but of humility, compassion and ultimate love. He saw their faces. He saw their hunger for a new day. He saw the depth of their suffering, and came to Jerusalem to deliver them by leading them to the cross.

They wanted him to rule. It’s probably what we want too. But instead, he chose to lead them, to lead us, to a cross; to lead us to the place where the very heart of God seeks not to dominate, but to transform our world and our hearts.

Perhaps tomorrow, Palm Sunday, it would be enough for us to want him to lead us, to transform us, to reshape us, and change our hearts.

They wanted him to demonstrate a little power, to exercise a little control, to reveal the power of God to force us to be better people than we know how to be on our own. Instead, Jesus chose to invite us to the cross, where the heart of God is broken open. He did so with the prayer that, standing there at the foot of that cross, we might be transformed; we might be redeemed, not forced, but inspired to be the people God calls us to be.

It would be easier if Jesus ruled. For then our only job would be to stand on the side, wave our palms and cheer. But instead he came to lead. So our job is to follow — to pay attention to what he has said, to watch carefully what he has done and to never fall too far behind.