All of us drive absent-mindedly once in a while, especially if we’re moving along familiar roads. But when we’re in new territory, we have to depend on the signs to be accurate.
This week I was on an unfamiliar 5-lane street during rush hour in heavy traffic when I came upon something strange. At the edge of a strip-mall parking lot, a stop sign seemed out of place and was confusing drivers on the main thoroughfare. Were they supposed to stop? Some were. Others weren’t. And cars leaving the mall parking lot were entering traffic without so much as a pause.
Because of a Starbucks on the corner, I turned into the lot and found a parking spot, then walked back to the stop sign for a better look. It had been tampered with, swiveled 90 degrees, causing drivers to do the opposite of what they were supposed to do.
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Early this morning, while trying to get my heart ready for Palm Sunday, I thought about the traffic flow into Jerusalem that day 2000 years ago. Of course it was mostly foot-traffic then, though there was one very important donkey with the Son of God sitting on it.
When adoring crowds pushed toward Jesus in a type of Jerusalem rush-hour, there was no impatience or road rage, only joy and adoration. His miracles of healing had shown people he could do things no one else could do, and everyone on the Jerusalem road that day was deferring to him as part of a plan to make him their king.
There were no stop signs, and popular enthusiasm was propelling Jesus in a forward direction. A few days later, however, the “directional signs” had been tampered with and spun around. The zeal to make him king had come to a screeching halt, and the mob of well-wishers had turned on him.
Thankfully one person continued in a forward direction anyway, despite discouraging signs all around him. Jesus resolutely drove himself toward the cross and his own excruciating death while his supporters hightailed it in other directions. But instead of being influenced by the reversal of the traffic flow around him, he looked only to his Father for a definitive sign of what to do. He knew God never changed or amended his directives.
Although Jesus had been to Jerusalem many times, he knew this visit would be different than all the others. He dreaded it but continued his forward pace anyway.
As we took communion at church today, reminding ourselves of his shed blood and broken body on our behalf, I was flooded with appreciation that even when he could have made a turn, he resolutely kept walking straight ahead, all the way to Calvary.
“He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)