He staggers through the filthy, scorching desert. “So this is where it ends,” he mumbles. “This is it. Surrounded by dirt. Covered in dirt. You win, dirt! Congratulations, dirt! Well played...I’m dying alone.”
For the OCD detective of the hit TV series Monk, death surrounded by dirt is the most tragic ending imaginable. While working on a case, Monk finds himself wandering through the brutal Nevada landscape, one of the last places any self-respecting germaphobe would dare to tread. It’s a sharp contrast from his earlier interactions with a band of UFO-seekers (who are convinced that he is an alien). Monk finally has the peace and solitude he craves—just not in the way he craves it. An isolated death in the unforgiving Southwest is too extreme even for Monk, one of the most socially awkward detectives in fiction.
“I don’t want to die alone,” Monk whispers to himself. Then shockingly—hilariously to fans of the show—he admits, “I want people. People! I said it. I like people…just give me one more chance. I’ll be nice; I’ll be good; I’ll be empathetic. I’ll be the empathetic detective. Just send me some people. Please. I need people. People. People!”
Monk staggers to the top of a hill and is greeted by a chorus of voices. The camera pans dramatically to reveal the conspiracy theorists dressed in full alien-wear, UFO-seeking glory, the very same individuals Monk has spent the entire episode trying to avoid.
“Not these people,” he manages to groan before collapsing.
Like Monk, we all crave something. More than that, we crave that particular something on our own terms.
This day was a day of choosing. On this day, Jewish households would select their Passover lambs.
One week before Easter, Christians celebrate Palm Sunday to commemorate the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Luke 19:28-40 records the account of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem heralded by the praises of the people. John’s account of the same event in John 12:12-19 tells us that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to fulfill a prophecy recorded in Zechariah 9:9. John’s account also pinpoints for us which day this entry into Jerusalem occurred—the tenth day of the month of Nisan.
This day was a day of choosing. On this day, Jewish households would select their Passover lambs (Ex. 12:3-6). The lambs had to be without blemish, the best of the best. The animals would be tended until the Passover when they would be sacrificed to remind the people that the wages of sin is death and that the blood-price of guilt must one day be paid in full.
None of the Gospels record for us how Jesus’ disciples went about choosing their Passover lamb that year. Instead, we read the account of God choosing His Lamb on our behalf.
One of the most fiercely held human desires is the freedom to choose. We want to choose everything from our clothing, to our meals, to whom we love; from the way we look, to how we sound, to where we live. We can convince ourselves that, if given the opportunity, we will choose the right option. If only we have the chance, we can make ourselves better.
At our core, we’re like Monk, staggering through life, begging for an opportunity to prove our worth. We’ll be different. We’ll be better. Just take us out of this desert, and we’ll be changed. If I get a better job, I won’t be so stressed all the time. If I can find someone to love and who will love me in return, I will be fulfilled. If I can just have five minutes to myself, I’ll be able to regroup my thoughts and act more lovingly towards those around me.
We convince ourselves that we can give what is needed in order to make our lives better. Whether what we think we need is time, charisma, genius, or pure love, we sift through our hearts, looking for the snow-white intentions and the spot-free gift we are able to offer.
The problem is, this mythical lamb does not exist.
We promise to be better if we are given a chance, but God doesn’t demand a higher-than-average performance—he demands perfection.
We promise to love, only to realize that this means an all-encompassing, perfect love—not just for a person we happen to also like but extended to those we quite frankly can’t stand to be around. We promise to give generously of our time and money but falter when we realize that this means being fully present when and where our loved ones need us—in the daily annoyances as well as in the earth-shattering tragedies. We promise to be better if we are given a chance, but God doesn’t demand a higher-than-average performance—he demands perfection (Lev. 11:44a).
Even if we realize we can’t be flawless, an external source of perfection seems unwelcome to us. We don’t want that sort of thing. We don’t want a God of mercy so much as a God of indulgence, a kindly figure telling us to “run along and have a good time, dear,” while also being ready to smite those who inconvenience us. We want a God who plays by our rules so we can understand this game called life. We may even want salvation from the darkness of this world, but so often we do not desire that Savior.
And so on a day when the Law demanded that the Israelites choose their lambs, God the Father publicly identified His Son as the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. What the Law could not do, the Gospel did (Romans 8:3). What our best intentions, our most sincere sacrifices could never accomplish, the Father fulfilled perfectly and fully on our behalf. The Father has every right to look at us and say, “Not these people” (or, as Hosea 1:9 says, “Not My people”). Instead, He looks at us, sees our sin for what it is, and chooses to sacrifice His own Son on our behalf. He chooses us through the blood of the Lamb we could have never chosen on our own (Eph. 1:4).
Because of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we are comforted in God’s choice of the perfect Lamb. By the suffering Christ endured, we see the blood-price we could never render paid in full. Because Jesus died covered in the dirt of our sins, we see death destroyed; and by His resurrection, we know that we too shall rise. The Father has chosen and will not change His mind (2 Tim. 2:13). Christ Jesus is His perfect Lamb, and those who are marked by His blood will one day enter into the New Jerusalem as the chosen sheep of His kingdom.