Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Ultimate Super Hero

Matthew 21:7-9 (NIV)
They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!"

                We need heroes in our lives. For awhile, in our culture, we were anti-hero. We intentionally called into question anyone who had been lauded as a noble example. People that we had been taught to look up to where portrayed as vulgar and crass. Now we feel the need again for heroes. Just look at the number of “super hero” movies that have come out recently.  

                Our English word “hero” comes from the Ancient Greek term for "protector." In the ancient Greek world, a hero embodied the virtues and attributes that Greek society cherished. They provided a model for Greek people to emulate.

                Our need for fearless heroes has never truly faded. These days, some of our champions are soldiers who've shown valor in war, and astronauts who've risked their lives to explore space. We also see heroism in people who make life-saving medical discoveries, dedicate their careers to helping the poor and underprivileged, or labor to right social injustices.
                Santa Clara University ethics scholar Scott LaBarge tells us that we need heroes because they define the limits of our aspirations. We define our ideals by the heroes we choose, and in turn, our ideals define us. Heroes symbolize the qualities we'd like to possess and the ambitions we'd like to satisfy.

                The people of Israel longed for their super hero to come; the promised Messiah. For hundreds of years they had hung onto the promise that God would send his anointed one. The Messiah would come and make all things right. He would be the ultimate hero. The people had many expectations of who the Messiah would be. He was seen as a political hero who would restore the glory of Israel. He was seen as an economic hero who would restore prosperity to Israel. He was seen as a religious hero who would champion the cause of Yahweh.

                When Jesus made his grand entrance into Jerusalem at the beginning of the Passover week, the crowd recognized him as the promised Messiah. Excitement ran high. The crowds were caught up in the moment. They were convinced that this miracle worker had come to restore the kingdom of Israel. They began shouting the traditional Psalms of praise that were used during the Passover by arriving pilgrims. But this time, they directed them toward Jesus. They shouted “hosanna”; calling on Jesus to save them now!

                  The religious leaders realized what the people were doing. They were uncomfortable with this open display of honor for Jesus. They felt threatened by the high emotions of the people. They even came to Jesus and demanded that he put a stop to this inappropriate display.

                Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." Luke 19:39-40 (NIV)
                Jesus refused to silence the crowd. This was his day. He was making a definitive statement about who he was. He openly accepted the crowd’s praise as appropriate and necessary. Although the people didn’t understand, Jesus had come to be their ultimate super hero, their Savior.

                As we enter Holy Week, we are confronted with the reality that Jesus came to be our ultimate hero. Palm Sunday is a demonstration of Jesus’ right to sit on the throne of our lives. But Jesus will not take that throne by force. He invites us to yield it to him willingly.

                In our angry, violent and confusing world, Jesus came to be our champion. If you have ever been bullied or taken advantage of, you understand the need for a champion. Throughout his ministry Jesus was the champion of the common people; the powerless, marginalized, excluded. He wants to be our champion as well.

                As our champion, Jesus offers us the things we cannot attain on our own.
- He gives us peace in the face of unceasing conflict. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
- He gives us hope in the face of hopelessness.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23
- He gives us purpose and direction in the face of aimlessness.  
- He gives us ultimate security when our world seems to be crumbling.

                We all need a hero; someone who will stand with us and stand up for us. Jesus is that hero. 

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