The Palm Sunday Mistake

by Erin Bird

It’s no secret; I love movies. One of my favorite directors is Christopher Nolan, famous for writing and directing Inception, the Dark Knight (Batman) trilogy, Interstellar, and 2017’s Dunkirk.

The first Nolan film I ever saw was The Prestige. The film is about two 19th-century magicians competing to be known as the greatest illusionist of their time. Both men were so committed to their craft, they were willing to make major sacrifices. But the viewer doesn’t realize just how deep their sacrifice truly was until the end of the film approaches. The reason you, as the viewer, get surprised by the ending is because you naturally made assumptions about what you were seeing, causing you to fall into a “mental mistake” regarding the story.

A Biblical Mistake

In the New Testament, all four Gospels share a story of what has become known as “The Triumphal Entry.” This true story is remembered every year on Palm Sunday, the week before Easter (which is this Sunday if you didn’t realize it!). If you aren’t familiar with the story, Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey as people wave palm branches while yelling, “Hosanna!” (which means “give salvation now” in Hebrew).

But the palm wavers were making a huge Prestige-level mistake.

Palm branchesThe palm branch had become a symbol for Israel, meaning the wave of a palm branch was a rebellious gesture against the Roman Empire. On top of this, Jesus was riding into town on a donkey, in fulfillment of a prophesy about a coming king (Zechariah 9:9). So, the people assumed Jesus was arriving as a political Savior who was going to “give salvation now” by overthrowing the Roman government and reestablishing Israel as a sovereign nation.

But that’s not why Jesus was entering Jerusalem.

You see, Jesus didn’t come to earth to overthrow or establish a political nation. As the eternal Son of God, He knew powerful nations rise and fall. Rather, there was a spiritual empire that had enslaved God’s people for several millenia. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit (see Genesis chapter 3), sin had subjugated mankind. So Jesus did not come to overthrow a temporary Roman empire, but rather overthrow the long-reign of sin. His aim wasn’t to simply be a political king, but the True King over all things, including life and death.

But it is not just the palm wavers that were mistaken about Jesus. Sometimes modern humans like you and I make assumptions about Jesus that are also incorrect.

  • Some view Him as simply a good moral teacher,
  • Others see Him as a benevolent God who will give us nice things if we behave,
  • And still others have an opinion that He’s just a myth created by desperate people.

But Jesus is none of those things.

Like a Prestige magician, Jesus, fully God and fully human, willingly sacrificed Himself on a cross, not to pull off the greatest illusion ever, but to truly pay the penalty of sin so you and I might be freed from its tyranny and could enter the Kingdom of God. And to make Jesus the King of your life is not a mistake, but rather the best thing you could ever do!

Being Rescued from the American Dream

by Erin Bird

Remember some of the life dreams you had when you were a kid? I dreamt of being a detective who solved crimes – or a pro athlete.

But as many kids get into high school and college, their dreams begin to shift. Some dream of getting married and having kids. Some dream of getting their own home someday. Some dream of an amazing job or large income. Some dream of driving a fancy car or hitting it big in some field like music or film.

But those dreams are too small. Right now, we are in the season of Lent, preparing for Easter Sunday. I want to invite you to not just give up food, alcohol, soda, or TV for Lent. I want to invite you to give up your dream for Lent – to let God rescue you from the American dream and replace it with a God-sized dream.

And to see that, we are going to look at Luke 5:1-11. (I encourage you to pause here and go read it for yourself. I’ll wait. 😉

Peter, Meet Jesus

When Simon Peter met Jesus, he was a fisherman. He grew up the son of a fisherman. He was trained to be a fisherman. Fishing was all he knew. So it’s natural to assume he had fisherman dreams. He probably dreamt of a boat-load of fish. A huge catch would mean lots of money, a full stomach, and the respect of everyone around.

But when this new-on-the-scene Jesus of Nazareth jumped in his boat mid-day and said, “Let’s go fishing,” Simon was NOT expecting the fulfillment of his dreams. He thought this carpenter-turned-rabbi was probably off his rocker just a bit – you don’t fish mid-day. You fish in the cooler temps of the night and early morning when the fish are closer to the surface feeding. But Simon humored Jesus and dropped his nets, even though he knew the fish were deeper than his nets could reach.

But the unthinkable happened. As soon as Simon dropped the nets, they began to teem with fish. So much that the nets began to break! Simon and his brother Andrew called for their partners, James and John, to hop in a boat and come help them. When all was said and done, BOTH boats were overloaded with fish.

Jesus had worked a miracle. He gave Simon far beyond anything Simon could have asked for or imagined.

Yet notice Simon Peter’s response. You would think that the fulfillment of a dream would have him whooping and hollering in excitement. Or he might start hugging Jesus, thanking him for fulfilling his dream. Or he might even jump into the water and start splashing around in celebration.

But he doesn’t do any of that. Instead, he falls at Jesus’ feet and says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinner.”

So often, the dreams we think will give us happiness – money, fame, relationships, or loads of fish, – just end up leaving us empty. They don’t fulfill us the way we thought they would.

So often, the dreams we think will give us happiness – money, fame, relationships, or loads of fish, – just end up leaving us empty.

But Jesus didn’t load the boats with fish to fulfill Simon’s dream. He loaded the boats to rescue Simon from his dream – his earthly, self-centered dream – and give him a God-sized dream. Jesus looks at Simon and says, “Come, follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.”

Simon’s dream of a boat-load of fish would have only given HIM more money, would have filled HIS tummy, and made HIM the most famous guy in town for the week. But that sort of dream is too small. Jesus loved Simon enough to rescue him from his small dream and invite him to impact eternity, which is the sort of dream that can only be accomplished by the power and grace of God.

And when you read Acts 2:38-41, you see God’s dream for Simon Peter’s life more than fulfilled.

So this Lent, I invite you to not just give up soda, chocolate, or TV for Lent. I invite you to also give up your earthly dream. Let Jesus rescue you from the American dream and replace it with a God-sized dream. Don’t settle for a small dream that just seeks to make your own life a little better, but a dream that changes the eternity of others.

So go catch men and women and children! Love them with the love of Christ, sharing with them your heart, life, and gospel, inviting them to find and follow Jesus.

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