I saw on facebook that a fellow pastor was going to be preaching on Palm Sunday and had a Doctor Who reference to throw in to the mix. I never found out what his illustration was, but it got me thinking about a recent episode I rewatched.
In the series two premiere, the new Doctor – David Tennant – is still recovering from his regeneration. Chaos is reigning outside with a large Sycorax war ship hovering over London. Prime Minister Harriet Jones issues an urgent plea – “Doctor, if you are out there, save us!”
When Jesus appeared on the scene in Galilee, people flocked to the countryside, to the houses, to the shores just to catch a glimpse of this man who would save them. He healed their illness, he cast out their demons, he even forgave sins… He made their worldly pains go away. He saved them from their current predicaments. He was amazing.
And so when he rides into Jerusalem on the back of a colt, when he comes bringing peace and hope, the people spontaneously shout out: HOSANNA! Save us!
They are full of problems and stresses and this Jesus has shown that he can solve them. He can heal them. He can save them. He can make it all go away… he’s the Doctor that Harriet Jones was pleading for.
But God’s ways are not our ways. Jesus spent a week in Jerusalem, but he didn’t leave victorious… he left carried away to be buried in a tomb. The people couldn’t understand how his way of humility and love and grace and sacrifice could bring about the reign of God and TRULY save us… save us not from our current oppressive problems but save us to the core of our very being. And so they rejected him, crucified him, and left him for dead. If he refuses to help me the way I want to be helped, I don’t want any part of it.
I find this particular episode of Doctor Who to be such an interesting parallel, because the Doctor too is rejected in the end. Although he defeats the Sycorax in the challenge fight, he does so without killing the leader. He sends them off packing with a warning – “When you go back to the stars and tell others of this planet, when you tell them of its riches, its people, its potential, when you talk of the Earth, then make sure that you tell them this… IT IS DEFENDED!”
The Sycorax leave. They head back for the stars.
But Harriet Jones… the one who cried, “Save Us!” in the first place is not satisfied. He didn’t save them in the way she hoped he would. He didn’t save them in a way that would continue to isolate them from the stars. He didn’t save them in the way that she was completely willing to do. And so with a word, the Torchwood weapon is launched and the Sycorax are blown out of the sky.
We are not happy when things don’t go our way. And when our savior comes along and isn’t what we expected, it is surprising how quickly we turn to violence. How quickly we become the very thing we are fighting against. How quickly we lose our humanity in a desperate attempt to cling to the salvation we think we deserved.
May we have open minds this week. May we have open hearts this week. And may God surprise us and challenge us and transform us along this journey so that we might accept the amazing gift of salvation that he offers.