I hope I’m not being too heretical by making this confession, but every year around this time I’m tempted to change the ending to the Easter story partly to see if anyone notices, and partly just to stir the pot.
From Palm Sunday through Easter, I toy with the idea of a very different kind of Jesus. In my minds eye, he rides into town on that donkey, but instead of letting the events unfold as they did, his disciples begin to flank him on either side.
The one up front…maybe Peter…he has a trumpet and proclaims the Day of the Lord. The rest of the disciples march in a V formation; Jesus at the front and his posse behind him. The raucous crowds fall into step and the whole procession marches right up to Pilate’s front door.
As they come within striking distance, Jesus draws his sword from the seat of the donkey and the legions lining the streets behind him begin to chant for Pilate’s blood.
The grim-faced disciples are holding sticks and stones. The Peasants behind them are wielding pitchforks and torches. I can almost read their minds as the commoners stand brandishing their weapons of choice. You can read it on their expectant faces. You can see it in their determined eyes…”Finally, salvation has come to Jerusalem. Finally, the messiah has come!”
From the back of his Donkey of War, Jesus levels his gaze to the palace before him, lowers his sword in a symbolic gesture, and is the first to yell “Attack!” in a belly-roar as the throngs rush in to spend their fury in revolution.
I’ll admit, it doesn’t exactly fit as a stand-in for the Easter story as the Bible tells it. If you’re actually offended, I understand and I’ll even agree with you. The picture I just painted of Jesus ought to offend all of us who seek to be known as Christian people.
But at the same time, imagining such a story gives me an odd kind of hope in the God we know and trust.
See, this year more than any other I’m beginning to understand the Easter story in terms of failed expectations. So I imagine what would have unfolded if the expectations of the people were met. How would have the story gone if the crowds got what they wanted (revolution–kick the bums out)? How would it be different if Pilate got what he was expecting (failed revolution–crush the revolt)?
All that to say, Jesus knew what he was doing when he came on the donkey. He set the third way out of the human condition and our endless power cycles of eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth. His ways are higher than our ways (though they often seem lower) and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
Our best, highest, and most well-planned attempts at life will come to nothing. But if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, God will surprise us at our moment of grief, creating resurrection hope out of even the darkest hour of grief.
I know that preaches well. But in reality, it lives hard.