On C. S. Lewis and the Triumphal Entry

Palm Sunday: Meditations on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and the Triumphal Entry

Matthew 21:1-11

God works in very different ways than we might expect.

  • C. S. Lewis tells a great allegory of Christ—his ministry, trial, death, and resurrection—in a story called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
  • Four children, siblings, the Pevensies, find their way into a land called Narnia, magically, through a wardrobe.
  • In that land there are talking beasts and mythological creatures come to life.
  • It is apparently ruled by a very stern witch, who has made it always winter but never Christmas.  Whenever anyone crosses her, she turns them to stone.
  • The children soon learn, however, that there is a greater ruler, a king, who is magnificent and benevolent.  He has been away but will soon return; and when he does the witch better watch out!
  • This king, they learn, and not without a little fear, is a lion named Aslan.
  • Well, if you’ve heard the story then you know that Aslan is a picture of Jesus Christ; and the witch is a picture of Satan.
  • In this story—as in our own—betrayal takes place, seen especially in one of the humans, Edmund.
  • This betrayal is worthy of death; and the witch will not take no for an answer.
  • But Aslan willingly offers to die in Edmund’s place.
  • The witch is almost overjoyed at this offer.  But just to be sure she reminds Aslan that once this covenant is agreed upon, it cannot be changed according to the laws of deep, ancient magic.
  • Nevertheless, Aslan’s offer stands.  He is sacrificed on a Stone Table in Edmund’s place.  It seems like the witch has won.
  • The girls, Susan and Lucy, weep and attend to their dead Lord.  When their grief is spent, they turn to leave.
  • Then, with their backs to the Stone Table, the sun rises and the girls hear a tremendous crashing sound.
  • They turn around and see that the Table is cracked and broken; and that their Lord, Aslan, is nowhere to be seen.
  • Thinking the worst—“Oh, haven’t they humiliated him enough already!”—Aslan appears suddenly, more radiant than ever, with drops of golden sunlight seeming to fly from his mane.
  • And he roars!
  • And the witch and all her cronies, far away now, tremble!
  • “But the deep and ancient magic, Aslan,” the girls ask; “how did you break it?”
  • “I cannot break God’s decrees,” he explains; “but there is an even deeper and more ancient magic the witch has forgotten about.  And according to that deeper and more ancient magic I stand before you now.  Let’s go settle this thing once and for all!”
  • And they do.

God works in very different ways than we might expect.

  • Now let’s look at the triumphal entry.
  • People spread their cloaks across the road so that Jesus can ride a donkey across them.
  • A donkey, the symbol of a king!
  • And they wave palms.
  • To this crowd, here is their savior, come to set all things right; come to deliver the chosen people of God from their human oppressors.
  • But after just a few short days, this new savior comes up short in their eyes.
  • He was noticed by the authorities at the Passover Feast.
  • But instead of fighting he retreated into a garden, where he was found hiding from his pursuers.
  • Now, during his trial, he’s just standing there, silent.
  • Why doesn’t he do anything about it?  Some messiah he turned out to be!
  • And so this same crowd that so recently laid their cloaks across the road; who so recently waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna in the highest!”—
  • This same crowd now shouts, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”

God works in very different ways than we might expect.

  • Jesus didn’t satisfy the crowd’s understanding of deep, ancient magic—something called, theologically, the Abrahamic Covenant.
  • Jesus did not in any way they could see help them to take back the land that was rightfully theirs, according to what God once told Abraham.
  • And so Jesus, according to the crowd, was not their messiah.
  • But there was a deeper, more ancient magic at work—a magic that is far older than Abraham, even far older than Adam and Eve.
  • Perhaps if the crowd had paused and reflected, they might have seen this deeper magic at work in Jesus’s arrest and trial.
  • Perhaps if the crowd had paused and reflected, things would have turned out differently.
  • Perhaps if the crowd had paused and reflected, they would have seen that Jesus was indeed their Messiah in much more profound ways than they’d ever expected.
  • This is something we do as a church every year during Lent: pause and reflect.
  • Why?  Precisely this: to consider the deepest and most ancient magic of God; that Jesus is our Messiah in much more profound ways than we could ever know.
  • It all comes together this week: Holy Week.
  • Come and see!

God works in very different ways than we might expect.

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