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March 29, 2015 - Mark 11.1-11

“More Blessed Than They Know”

Mark 11:1-11

Palm Sunday, March 29, 2015

 

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

 

What a difference a week can make.  In just one week, a family can go from being a family of four to a family of five – or from a family of three to a family of two.  A week is enough time for the world to change – or even for the universe to be created.  A week is only seven days, and yet, it can be enough time for everything to change.  A week is enough time to meet someone and fall in love.  A week is enough time for entire destinies and futures to be decided.  Last week, we were observing Lent in our worship, still on our way to the Cross, and today, we are observing Palm Sunday, the Sunday when we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  What a difference a week makes.

 

Today we celebrate Jesus as King and proclaim that he was and is the Messiah of God.  We do this today, because Palm Sunday was the day that Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem and was heralded as a king, a hero and the Messiah.  And yet, our prayer is that our celebration and praise of him will not be found as hollow as those who praised him that day.  All too soon, the crowds, presumably the same crowds, will demand the release of a common criminal and the death of “the one who comes on the name of the Lord.”  One week later, the same people that laid down palm branches and proclaimed Jesus “King” cry out for Jesus to be crucified and for Barabbas to be set free.  What a difference a week makes.

 

If they believed Jesus was the Messiah, how come they crucified him?  Did they all suffer from some kind of mental hysteria?  Did they go crazy?  No.  They just didn’t get what they wanted.

 

What they wanted was a Hero.  The hero they had in mind was a conqueror, a real victorious warrior kind of guy.  He had to be strong, he had to fast, and he had to larger than life.  They were looking for someone to come and fulfill these fantasies they had for what would happen “when the Messiah came.”  They wanted someone to drive out the Romans, stop all the other countries from invading all the time, end poverty by looting weaker enemies, bring peace through a mighty sword, all supported by the fact that the Messiah was God’s man for the job a would do miracles to prove it so that no army could stand in his way.  He would be the man that the religious leaders had all been waiting on and they would rally behind him and drive out the infidel oppressors.

 

Well, here is what happened.

 

Rumors had spread about Jesus’ miraculous abilities to display power and his amazing teachings.  They heard he was finally coming to Jerusalem, and the long awaited meeting between Jesus and the religious leaders of Jerusalem was going to take place!  The problem was, everybody had the whole thing figured out, scripted out, places marked for the ceremony to take place, and NO ONE had bothered to ask Jesus what his plans were.

 

The very shouts the crowd raised to Jesus showed how their thoughts were running.  They shouted, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"  That is a quotation from Ps.118:26.  The excitement from the crowd demonstrates their hope.    Jesus enters Jerusalem as a pilgrim of special standing, one the people will see as a messenger of God.  His arrival will surely bring with it blessings to Jerusalem and to its inhabitants and he in turn will be blessed by the association with this holy place.  Of course, nothing could be farther removed from the actual events that take place.

 

The joyful expectations for God’s salvation that attend his approach to the city will him abandoned on the cross.  This story reminds us that faith is not built on such cycles of hope and disappointment.  Jesus knows the patient suffering and apparent lack of success required for the coming of God’s kingdom.  The power of God, which the crowd hopes to witness, will be demonstrated, but it will occur only on the cross.

 

Jesus had claimed to be the Messiah, but in such a way as to try to show that the popular ideas of the Messiah were misguided.  But the people did not see it.  Their welcome was one that befitted, not the King of love, but the conqueror who would shatter the enemies of Israel.

 

When Jesus enters Jerusalem, it is to disrupt Temple practice and to indict those associated with it.  In his conversations with the authorities, he undermines their authority and their teaching.  What follows is a scathing indictment from Jesus upon the religious authorities:  12.1-12 is the parable of the wicked tenets and blatantly threatens the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  In 12.18-27, Jesus accuses the Sadducees of ignorance of both the scriptures and God’s power.  And finally in 13.2, Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple.

 

We might want to extend just a little bit of sympathy to these Jerusalem folk.  After all, they did roll out the red carpet for Jesus.  They hailed him as their Messiah.  They did welcome him as an honored guest.  They do all of this only to discover that Jesus has come into town to attack all that they prize. 

 

The irony of course, stems from the fact that the Jesus whom the crowds welcome and want is in fact not the Jesus they get.  They desire the genial guest, the teacher who will say what they want to hear and in ways that are pretty and soothing.  The kingdom they have prepared themselves to receive is not the Kingdom they are going to get at all.

 

Is Jesus the King of All?  Yes.    Does he rule at the right hand of God?  Yes.  Is he King on our terms?  No.   Does Jesus conform to our understanding?  No.  Jesus is the Messiah, not your Messiah, not my Messiah.  It’s a good thing, too, because the Messiah we were expecting isn’t up to the task.

 

What would have happened had the people of Jerusalem gotten the Messiah they were hoping for?  Nothing.  I mean nothing.  Nothing as in the same nothing that had happened a hundred times before when some yahoo tried to claim the mantle of the Messiah.  He would have failed and been killed.  A hundred before some guy came into Jerusalem, managed to lead a revolt, got a few followers behind him, led a charge up some hill somewhere, and then got squashed flat every time.  But Jesus was killed and succeeded.

 

Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, but his understanding of the Messiah conflicts with the Messiah that is standing right in front of him.  I wonder, is our understanding of Jesus in conflict with the Jesus that is standing right in front of us?  

 

A prominent management theorist, when asked about the essential characteristics of a good leader in business, replied, “Courage to push against the defenses of an organization.  Good leaders have the courage to intervene.  In dying organizations, leaders simply manage what is already going on.”  Jesus did not come to Jerusalem to simply manage what was already going on or to simply fulfill the expectations of the status quo.  Jesus came to challenge the very idea of Messiah that everyone had as a flawed vision and one infinitely inferior to God’s plan.  Jesus would not be handcuffed or put into a box.  Do we try to do that?  Do we limit Jesus?  Do our expectations limit Jesus so that we do not allow God to work outside our box? 

 

Frequently, we are so tied to our expectations of Jesus that when he does show up outside our box, we no longer recognize him.  Look at our history on some issues, which appear crystal clear to us today:  Slavery.  Women.  Showing ankles in public.  Card playing.  Wearing make up.  On all of these issues, our history shows that we thought we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what was God’s way.  We had it figured out.  But what was happening was that we had put God into a box, a box that we had created because we wanted to control everything.  God was outside the box and we did not recognize Jesus. 

 

If God did not come to us as Jesus did, on Jesus’ and God’s own terms, but instead on the terms of those people in Jerusalem, then they would have been without hope.  They would have been doomed.  The same is true for you and me.  If we limit God to our own comfortable assumptions of who God is – we are doomed.  If God does not come to us to redeem sinners, to save us from ourselves, then we are without hope.  But God does, and we are more blessed than we know.  Thank God, and may God come to us on God’s terms and not our own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biliography:

Barclay, William; The Daily Study Bible: Mark.

Bruggemann, Walter; Texts for Preaching, Year B

Craddock, Fred; Preaching Through the Christian Year, Year B

Willimon, William; Pulpit Resource.