Back in 1995, Alanis Morissette sang Ironic. Unfortunately, the only ironic thing about it was that it wasn’t ironic. Take a look at some of the lines:
It’s like rain on your wedding day – That’s an inconvenience, not irony
A free ride when you’ve already paid – Just ask for a refund
Good advice that you just can’t take – Then it’s not really good advice, is it
A traffic jam when you’re already late – That’s just poor planning
Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife – I don’t even know what this one means
Irony is not an overabundance of cutlery. Irony is when you expect one thing but get something else. It’s a literary technique, a way to tell a story. It’s not a rainy wedding, it’s an unexpected turn of events – sometimes good, sometimes bad.
And with that, I want you to think about this.
Jesus’ story-tellers, the Gospel writers, used irony all over the place. When you think one thing should happen, something else all together happens. Especially during Holy Week. Starting on Palm Sunday and running through the whole week, there are instances of irony all over the place. On Thursday, Jesus the master kneels down and becomes a servant to wash his followers’ dirty feet. We call Friday “Good Friday,” even though it’s the day our Lord and God is killed. The same crowd who yells “Hosana!” on Palm Sunday are heard on Friday yelling “Crucify Him!”
We, as followers of Christ, live in that irony every day. We live in a tension between life and death. As Jesus literally skirted that line during Holy Week, we follow his lead in our day-to-day life. “If you want to be first, you have to be last.” “Whoever wants to preserve their life must lay it down.” You want this? You’re gonna do this instead.
During Holy Week, Jesus’ followers knew something was up, but they just weren’t sure what or how it would all play out. They expected Jesus to charge into Jerusalem and take his place as king. He did, in a way, but it was humbly on a donkey instead of a conquering king – not so triumphal of an entry, you think?
When the crowds shouted, “Hosana!” they were calling on the Lord to save them. That’s what “Hosana” literally means – “The Lord Saves!” But they had no idea that in order to save us, Jesus would have to lay down his life. In his death, sin died. He died so that we wouldn’t have to. On Sunday, they cried out to God, telling him the greatest need of their heart. On Friday, Jesus would answer, but in a way that no one expected.
All of us have needs every single day. We cry out to God, but we also imagine exactly how he should and will answer us. Our cries are usually accompanied by a careful plan. “God, I need your help…and I’ve got it all figured out. Should I just email you the to-do list?” But God loves to give us what we would never expect.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.
What you think isn’t what you get. God is able to give us beyond what we can ask or imagine. You want to live? Lay down your life. You want to be first? You have to be last. We cry out in our need, and God leads us to give. And then God answers. And his answers are far beyond anything we could ever come up with ourselves.
Who would have thought it figures.