Encounter: Find a quiet place to spend some time reading slowly through John chapter 12. Now focus on verses 9-19, reading through the passage 3 times, first time through underline any words or phrases that make an impression. Record any questions that come up for you as you read.
Battle Lines – a line along which a battle is fought: a line defining the positions of opposing groups in a conflict or controversy usually used in plural.
The eighth and final season of the HBO series Game of Thrones was watched by millions of followers in the spring of 2019. A fantasy drama, this popular series was set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and followed the battles waged for control of the realm’s of noble families. It had all the ingredients of intrigue set in the stage of good verses evil, with the abuse of power and an obsession for control taking center stage.
When we step into Holy Week through the door of Palm Sunday, we see something of a Game of Thrones playing out before us in the stories God has preserved for us telling of another series that plays over and over. We see three powers as they vie for control and the convergence of these forces set the stage for Holy Week and the battle we see is reminiscent of a story set in the opening acts of human kind,
“I’m declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers. He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel.” Genesis 3:15
James Stewart describes it this way, The entrance into Jerusalem was an acted parable. It gave the faithful the sign they had been waiting for. It inaugurated the Master’s final mission to his people and was a fitting prelude to the days of intense activity and emotion which were to follow. It focused the whole city’s attention on Jesus, so that wherever he went during that closing week, crowds followed him, and his name was on every tongue.
And, not least important, it flung down the gauntlet to his enemies. It defied them. Much they could endure, but this procession through the streets was intolerable. This fanatic and usurper must be put down finally. Jesus in that tumultuous hour was issuing a challenge. Every token of royal honor which he accepted that day gave point to the challenge, and every hosanna of the crowd drove it home. Let the powers of evil do their worst; he knew his power. He was the Lord’s anointed. He was riding to the throne which God had given him. He was ready for the last campaign.
Battle lines were being drawn then and they are being drawn now as the drama of Palm Sunday is played out in our hearts and minds every day. Whether it is the pull from the world that demands our worship be of Caesar or religious tradition that has lost its soul, the Kingdom of God is declaring a victory one life at a time by drawing our hearts back to our Messiah. In an age when culture is taunting us to deconstruct our faith, our Creator God is restoring our faith and telling us to keep telling everyone of the hope that is within us.
With the waving of the palms and the shouting of our Hosanna's this last Sunday of Lent, we are being issued a challenge. To disturb the evil enough to cause them to say, “We won’t be able to stop this. The whole world is running after Him!” And then it happens, those searching will come in the middle of the battle and ask us, "Would you take us to see Jesus? We want to see Him." And we will.
See you Sunday!
Reflect: Google to find any art images of the scenes described in this passage. Spend some time in prayer with these images. Imago Divina is a form of praying that we can do in partnership with the scriptures using an art image to draw us closer to God in prayer. Consider reading through the scriptures of Christ's last week using some of those images as well in this practice. Here is a brief outline that can help you engage with this prayer practice:
Allow yourself to be drawn into this experience with an open heart.
Find a space where you can be alone.
Find an image that attracts your attention – one you like or don’t like, and find a place for the image within your space. Allow yourself to be invited into the mystery it might hold for you – at this time.
Lectio (reading) …..trusting that the Holy Spirit is there to help you, ‘read’ the image really SLOWLY. Some people find that systematically moving your eyes from left to right and top to bottom, helps to slow them down and notice detail. Let the image move deeply into your being, like nourishing rain into the soil. Allow it to touch you.
Meditatio (reflecting) ..reflect on the art work (or part of it) that has touched you, exploring what it means to you here and now. Let the image resonate with your personal situation; believe that through this process God is communicating with you, perhaps giving an encouragement or a challenge, or calling you to a deeper awareness of God’s love for you.
Oratio (responding) ..now respond and talk to God about what you have been thinking and what you have noticed. You might pray your response or write in your journal, even sing or dance or paint your response …pray as the Spirit moves you.
Contemplatio (resting) ..in this final and most important stage, sit quietly with God, at rest in the presence of the One who loves you. Do not worry that you may appear to be doing ‘nothing’. Trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in the depths of your spirit, deepening your faith. Let the image and its message move from your head to your heart to dwell there in peace-full silence.
(taken from www.unforcedrhythms.org)
Encourage: What battles have you been fighting where you could use some support? Can you identify the enemy in the chaos? What do you feel as you read through this passage especially knowing how the story is about to unravel? Is there someone you know who is in their own battle? Pray they will experience the restoration of their faith and ask God how you can encourage them.
Gather: In your small group time move through the prayer practice of Imago Divina outlined above using John 12:9-20. Discuss together what you experienced through this practice. Pray together about who you can invite to Easter services or encourage to step into their own EPIC adventure.