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Palm Sunday B Sermon
Mark 11:1-11

March 28, 2021


Sermon Archives
 

 

Mark 11:1-11

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!
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.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; Amen.

The voices of the crowds in the stories from Jesus’ last week of earthly life are very interesting to me. First there are the cries of the people who spread palm branches and garments on the road as Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey in our reading this morning. In our English language translations of the story they are shouting, “Hosanna!” This comes from the Hebrew words, “Hoshi’a na!” After years of simply thinking of this as a general term of adoration and praise, I discovered this week that it means, “Save us!” It has the sense of immediacy to it - “Please, Lord; Save us NOW!” These folks expected an earthly king to rid them of the imperial occupying force from Rome and restore David’s line to rule. They expected Jesus to lead a political revolution, expel their oppressors and rebuild the Kingdom of Israel.

You really cannot blame them. According to customs of the day, kings returning victoriously from battle would parade into the city mounted on a steed while people threw garments and branches on the road in adoration and to soften the ride as the royal procession paraded through jubilant crowds as they shouted - what else? Hosannah- please, Lord, save us now!! The major difference is that Jesus rode a donkey, not a large, intimidating war horse. His mount was a colt, the foal of a donkey. That description re-iterates that the animal was small, a baby donkey. Colts are under four years old, and the foal of a donkey is the small offspring.

Instead of towering over the crowd on a huge muscular animal Jesus rode on a small, almost miniature, version. I wonder if the people realized the irony of this scene - yelling for this one who symbolizes suffering and servanthood to save them from the political powers that rule them. The one who did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited for his own fame and wealth (as all other earthly rulers do) but humbled himself and became obedient unto death - even death on a cross. It is that strength found in emptying oneself of all desires for gain that none of us can duplicate. Because of that, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of the Father. It is not because of military victory or political power that Jesus is worshiped as Lord and King; it is because of the self-sacrificing love that he poured out for you and me and all of God’s wonderful creation.

But that didn’t satisfy the crowds. We will hear more voices later this week. These voices will yell, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” But don’t get too critical of these voices. It is our sinful nature to expect that our leaders will make life better for us. And when we say, “better” we mean easier; more prosperous. By better we often mean taking care of those who are different from us, especially those who we have been taught to fear. By better we often envision a victory over our adversaries, not understanding that those who we claim to be adversaries are also loved by God. All of us who have called for someone to be crucified, defeated or otherwise eliminated have joined our voices with these people shouting for Jesus to be killed on a cross. These are harsh, cruel cries for harsh, cruel consequences for one who came to love. Isn’t that ironic? When they thought they were crying out to one who would save them with military might and the sword, they softened his ride; when they discovered that his way is perfect love for all of God’s children, they call for his to be tortured and killed in a slow, cruel way.

It is that kind of irony that elevates the one who humbled himself to the one who has the name that is above every other name. The greatest love often comes across as defeat initially, and Jesus showed us with his whole life, and especially his final week of earthly life, that this is true. The same voices who cried Hosanna, pleading for Jesus to save them will be crying out for him to be crucified in a few days. If our voices were part of the crowd’s voices, we would be doing the same thing.

Today we give thanks to God because as we all know, God will raise and glorify this humble servant, riding into town today on a colt, the foal of a donkey. And even though we may not recognize it, he fulfills our cries for Hosannah - he has come to save us, right now. Amen.