Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.
We are thrilled that our friend, Reverend Nathan Kilbourne, has agreed once again to write for us. Pastor Nathan and his wife Pastor Lynn are incredible pastors, people, and friends. In addition to serving on the Advisory Board of Led By The Word, Rev. Kilbourne serves as the Associate Pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Little Rock, AR. He is a graduate of the Duke Divinity School.
The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,”Hosanna!
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord–the King of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.
— John 12:12-16 (NRSV)
There is a great danger in confusing knowing about someone or something and actually knowing someone or something. As one ethics professor said to her students, “It is possible to make an A+ in this course in ethics but still flunk life.” In other words, it is not enough to have correct answers. Correct answers only get a person so far. Knowledge leads us to a certain point; yet, it is not an end in and of itself.
Rather in order for knowledge to be effective, one’s cerebral understanding must to be connected to real life experience of the particular subject. Said another way, if one’s knowledge only exists within the mind, within the classroom, or within (let’s say) a worship space, then it is possible to know “all things” and yet such knowledge will make little impact upon our individual and communal lives.
And yet, the great danger of confusing knowledge about someone or something and actually knowing someone or something is not necessarily the lack of relating knowledge to concrete reality. Rather, the great danger is to assume false mastery over the particular subject or person. When we believe we know about someone or something and have little or no experience with that subject or person, such disconnected knowledge leads us to assume we have sufficient knowledge. The great danger lying beneath is we end up subjecting the person or subject to our expectations or framework.
For instance, I love sports talk radio. To me, it is an enjoyable waste of time. One of the most entertaining parts of sports talk radio is the call-in shows. No matter where you are I’m sure you can relate. People call-in to discuss a game, ask questions, and so forth. However, there are those who call-in and believe they are the coach. Because they have read a few magazines or played pee wee football they believe they have mastery over the subject. They present themselves as if they have all the right answers. And yet their knowledge is often so disconnected from the day to day operations of a professional or college sports team, they truly have little idea of what they are saying. The same is true when we tell (not ask) our doctors we need a particular medication because we saw an advertisement on television or spent 15 minutes online diagnosing ourselves. Knowing about something is different than knowing something.
Knowledge is relational. It requires a dynamic, give and take, learning and unlearning relationship in order for it to be effective. To assume mastery is to fail in understanding knowledge. Knowledge is an ongoing pursuit tempered with humility. It is a willingness to continue to pursue a subject or person and allow one’s expectations to be transformed by the relationship one has to the person or subject being pursued.
The crowd in our Scripture lesson knows about Jesus. In Matthew’s version of the Triumphant entry (Matt 21:1-11), the crowds know that Jesus is a prophet from Nazareth! They even have all the correct answers and say all the right words. Of course, all signs are pointing to Jesus being the Messiah. And the crowds certainly know what the Messiah will do – He will free God’s oppressed people from foreign occupation. The scene even looks like a joyful royal entrance, like Solomon riding a mule into Jerusalem to claim the throne. The crowds even shout, “Hosanna, to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!” Our long awaited King has come. One who will free us from foreign occupation and claim the throne of Israel. Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! The crowds know about the Messiah. They know what the Messiah is supposed to do; in fact they are almost certain how Jesus is supposed to act.
And yet, knowing about someone doesn’t equal knowing someone. While it may have been a joy for the people to see Jesus riding into Jerusalem like Solomon did so long ago, while they had all the right words, and know Jesus has come to challenge the powers and principalities, how deflating must it have been when he began to speak about his own death (John 12:27-36). How deflating it must have been when Jesus with his own disciples lifted the bread and the cup and said, “Take eat, Take drink…this is my body, this is my blood.” Their salvation wasn’t coming as they expected. It didn’t fit their frame of reference.
The crowds eventually turned on Jesus. “Crucify him,” they screamed. Shouts of Hosanna quickly faded when they realized Jesus didn’t fit into their known world. You see, knowing about someone doesn’t equal knowing someone.
But Jesus did not come to claim a throne, but a cross. And Jesus had not come to fulfill their expectations but the expectations of the Father. The crowds didn’t know as they shouted, “Lord save us, we beseech you (in other words Hosanna), Jesus was going to answer their plea but in a way they would not understand. At least not until after he was glorified.
Knowing about someone does not equal knowing someone. Possibly this Lenten season, we should take the place of humility when it comes to knowing about Jesus and admit we don’t know it all. Knowledge requires a dynamic relationship, one of learning and unlearning, a give and take. We can only know Jesus as we are invited into his presence and we can be thankful that through the cross and resurrection, Jesus makes himself available. Do you know about Jesus or do you know Jesus? Hosanna, Lord save us we beseech you!