Praying Towards Sunday

MARK 11:1-11 - 
11 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and 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. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
“Hosanna!
    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 Then 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.

A few years ago, a book written by Borg and Crosson was published called The Last Week: A Day by Day Account of Jesus’s Final Week in Jerusalem. The authors asked the question “What does “then” have to do with “now?” How does the action that occurred during Holy Week impact our current beliefs and help us open our lives to a resurrection faith?  Some version of this question becomes part of our thought and prayers as we make our journey this Holy season and contemplate our faith.

The year was about 30. It was Spring, the time to celebrate new life. Imagine seeing two processions, one from the East and one from the West, entering Jerusalem almost simultaneously.  One was a peasant one; the other an imperial one.  One came to celebrate elements of the long held Jewish faith and expectations taught by prophets. The other parade was a show of force for political reasons.

People had come to Jerusalem because they believed that the Temple in Jerusalem mediated access to God. The other parade represented Imperial Rome. It was there to squash and subdue any possible demonstration or disruption that might threaten the Roman political power.  Jesus, part of the peasant parade, rode a donkey; the Roman troops rode war horses.

Jesus seems to have planned some details of his entrance in advance.  Jesus did not appear to leave things to the last moment. Jesus sent two disciples ahead to borrow an untrained colt to be ridden during the entrance parade. When Jesus sent out His disciples He told them to use the message “The Lord needs it now”.  The animal would be returned.

When a king came in peace, He rode a colt.  Jesus came in peace. The colt that people brought for Him to ride had never been ridden, so it was considered “pure” for the purpose of religious rites.

The crowd was excited. People flung their cloaks on the colt and on the road, preparing the way.  They cut branches to wave and to add to the excitement.  Tradition remembers the branches as palm branches, but there were also leafy branches pulled from the fields that were used.

The crowd cried out something like “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel.”  “He that cometh” was another way of describing the longed-for Messiah.  There are several, varied meanings suggested for what the crowd shouted.  Some translate the word “Hosanna” to mean approximately “Save now!” or “Save us, we beseech you, O Lord.”  It was a plea to God to save His people now that the Messiah had come.

Two thousand years have passed.  We, too, ask what does “then” have to do with “now”. Why do we worry or bother about ancient history? The fact that this still comes to us gives us some hint of its importance.  God’s patience and grace outlast the centuries.

Jesus’ agenda is a revolution that is based on love. Love will replace force. Jesus’s message is that God’s love is for all.  We need to hear this more than ever.

From everything we know about him, Jesus was like the peasants of his time in that he owned very little. What Jesus did possess was of infinite value. He possessed a deep knowledge of the scriptures. That’s how He knew the prophets expected the true ruler of God's people to be extremely humble.

Jesus' entry into Jerusalem was a disclosure of his Messiahship, It was a disclosure for those with eyes to see. Few people, other than the disciples, understood the meaning of the events, and even they missed some of it.

Psalm 118 is the most oft-quoted Old Testament passage that appears in the New Testament. 

People celebrated Jesus and tried to make him into the kind of hero they wanted him to be.  By citing Psalm 118, we see a hint that these same people will be rejecting this same Jesus in pretty short order.   It will be that” rejection”—and not the “triumphal entry” reception—that will bring salvation to the world and make Jesus the Cornerstone for a whole true reality.

Jesus came into Jerusalem dragging the world in behind him.  Jesus suffers to let us know that, when we are suffering, God understands and cares for us.

It's not easy to follow Jesus, not on Palm Sunday and not on the days that follow. The week ahead will finally wind us up at a place called “Skull Hill” where a cross will be sunk into the flesh of the earth like a dagger through God's heart; like a dagger through all our hearts.

We who know the story of what occurs should also understand our place within it.  We are part of that crowd.  We are the donkey fetchers.  We wave our branches.  We gather in hope.  Yet, as we do so, we know that despite our enthusiastic response we, too, will lose our way with Jesus.  We will desert; we will betray; we will hide.

God continues to love us. Jesus loves us too.  There is a place for us. Jesus travels towards the cross, towards his death and towards his resurrection to break through our fickleness and so declare God’s love for us and inclusion of us in God’s very life.

May our celebration of the days ahead, through God’s help, be true Holy Days so we are better prepared for Easter’s new light to dwell in our hearts.  Amen