Scripture: Mark 11:1-11
Have you ever purchased a gift for someone? You invest time and thought into the gift, hoping that it will bring joy to the person receiving it. You look sometimes for hours trying to find the right thing. Finally you get to the checkout aisle and suddenly you start to doubt. Is it the right color? Do they even like this? Is it to cheesy? Am I thinking too much? Maybe I should just get a toaster they like toast. When we are trying to please someone it seems as if nothing else matters. We are filled with the excitement of the hunt, but reality sets in and we begin to wonder if it’s enough.
Israel has been looking for their bridegroom for centuries. Everyone has been studying who this person would be. They learned what the characteristics this person would have so they would be able to recognize him when they saw him. They had this picture in their mind and they held on to it. I have heard that people sometimes will make a list of characteristics for their future spouse. They try to determine what is most important to them, and what personality would be most compatible with them. This is pretty much the entire point of many of the dating websites like e-harmony. Yet even those that have their list made still are left to wonder like the rest of us if they could really know what is best. This is Israel in the first century. They are like a girl with a crush, well maybe something more than a crush they think they are in love.
The Messiah is a pretty big title to try to fill. Scripture is filled with little hints in nearly every book. Even books like Joshua and Judges have small hints as to who this future leader would be. As time progresses the hints begin to come into greater focus. The first hint, basically said that the chosen one would be born of a woman. It does not say how just that the female branch of humanity would be involved in the redemption of the world. Others say which tribe and line the anointed one would emerge. Some even tell us what his name would be, and guess what it His name translated directly from Hebrew to English would be Joshua, but we know it by a different pronunciation. They even knew the town this awaited one would be born. All through time there has been hints, clues to direct attention. They wait and wait, they seek, and they devise tests to discern the truth.
Then one day in a small town, the city their famous King David grew up this questionable couple enters. True they are there because they are family, but they are not married and she’s so pregnant that she could pop at any moment. They had a good story about what had happened but no one really believes them. They are left out in the barn, and a child was born. That night the quiet little town is suddenly filled with crazed herders, running around town in search of a baby that was destined to be the king. They find the barn and visit and then run around yelling at the top of their lungs that angels appeared to them telling them that the king was born and they had saw Him. After a short investigation they find out that they are talking about this couple that is in the barn, what are they to do. Now people are starting to talk, they have this illegitimate couple with the child born in questionable circumstances, and a bunch of weathered shepherds running around singing the praises of this child.
Later this town gets another visit from a group of people they never expected. Beyond the boarders of the Roman Empire is the empire of the Persians the ones that had once controlled the world. This nation had people that studied the skies and the writings of many scholars. They enter the town saying that the King of the Jews has been born they are coming to pay him homage. They begin their walk through this sleepy town and go to the house this couple has been staying and they enter worshiping the child and honoring his family with gifts. These citizens of Bethlehem are now confused, they first thought this family was one to talk about, now they know that it should be, not because of questionable timing but because this family is attracting the attention of the government.
The family flees the tyrant and move to Egypt, where the boy grows. He spends most of his childhood there in Nile valley, then they move home back to the land of their fathers. This boy that everyone first thought was born out of sin, begins to impress the teachers and the priests with His knowledge of scripture, He actually desires to stay in the temple instead of going home. He grows to adulthood, working with the family, seemingly forgotten. But then a preacher began to cry out in the wilderness “The Kingdom of God is near, repent and be baptized.”
Now everyone is wondering, “could it really be, is the king really here?” Jesus comes down to the river and John looks to him as his teacher instead of the other way around. Who is this Guy? Shortly after this the boy born in a barn begins to teach. He amazes everyone because he preaches unlike anyone else. He preaches as if He knows the deepest aspects of the law, the true heart of God. He doesn’t s quote others and seems to have authority in Himself. When this man is around it seems that things are different. People are healed and lives are changed.
The people are beginning to listen to this teacher. They do not know exactly why they are so attracted to him. The message is one they have heard before, but the way he teaches makes sense, and they begin to draw closer to God then they have been before. They watch people being healed before their eyes. They actually looked into the eyes of a man who was blind from birth and realize that he is actually looking back at them. The group grows and they follow him wherever he travels. At one point they are out in the middle of nowhere and it gets late, no one even thought about a meal. There is such a crowd, the hillside is filled with people and this man stands and prays over a basket of bread and fish and begins to pass it out. Everyone takes what they need and continue to pass the baskets, they wonder where it comes from and it lasts till the very last family has eaten, and there is some left over.
They being to think this man can feed us, He can heal our worst illnesses, what could be better? People ask to sit in his group and he doesn’t turn them away, he even allows women to sit there learning Him. He builds friendships, friendships so close that they become like a family. While away one of these friends dies and everyone wonders why didn’t he do anything? He healed so many, yet lets His friend pass beyond the veil. He joins them in the mourning and asks to be taken to the grave. They show Him where the friend was buried and He asks them to open it up. They wonder why but do as He asks, because He’s their friend and teacher, He calls out the name of His friend and everyone waits. Something amazing happens His friend actually comes out of the grave after being dead for three days. And they begin to think, “He can feed us, he can heal us, and he can raise the dead.” This man could be the greatest of Kings. His armies would be invincible. This little nation might finally be able to gain their freedom from the oppressors.
Can you imagine the excitement? This nation of people has been waiting, they thought they found the one in the Maccabees but this promising dynasty led them back into oppression. Might Jesus be the one? He inspires people to draw close to God, could He do more? We get excited about TEA Parties and Occupy Protests but these people were waiting for this chance longer than our nation has been in existence. They could really be a nation, free from overlords. Imagine the excitement of the twelve, as they are the closest to this man. The ones chosen out of the entire nation to walk with him, and to serve along side participating in the greatest miracles known to man.
Now is the time. Now is the time for the Nation to rise. They are overlook the cities, the city where God lives and Jesus says go get a colt. They have been away for some time, yet Jesus tells them exactly where to find this animal, and when they rush to get it is right where he said it would be. This is just one more thing to prove to them what a great king he is to be. He can find supplies without even being there. So they go to get the colt. If anyone objects, he tells them what to say and it works. Before their eyes their biggest dream has become a reality.
They begin to praise both Him and God. They worship the very ground that His beast of burden walks on. It is holy and God is with them. They enter the city and the celebration continues. They King has come. This once obscure man that was born to a family no one wanted to talk about, honored by the weather beaten shepherds and enemy priests. The man that wowed the teachers at an early age and wowed the nation for three years was now ready to bring in the Kingdom of God and they had a part in it. It was not just the twelve disciples but the entire city was beginning to be caught up in the excitement. The procession took them all the way into the very heart of the city; a chorus began to sing “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
They found their king and His name was Jesus. He was going to redeem the nation. This is what they thought this is what they hoped. But the day was late, and the procession left the temple and town.
Today we celebrate our King. Today we honor our King. It is a day to celebrate. Just like the nation of Israel. They finally found their groom and through Him they would again be God’s nation. The sun goes down and the darkness enters the world yet again. The hour is late and though they found and announced their king, the overlords will not give up easily.
One day they are singing and the next they begin to second guess. They get out their list and begin testing. This activity was not done in secret. In fact the fortress holding the Roman army overlooked the temple of God. There were watchmen on the walls seeing the procession, listening to the songs of praise. These overlords also had allies in the temple people whose livelihood was directly related to keeping the nation under the rule of Rome. It was no secret. These allies were speaking out against this man as much if not more than those that praised Him. They brought out the past, the fact that He was born outside the tradition of law. They reminded people where He lived and why. They began to proclaim the dangers of such a King. And the tide began to turn. Darkness was sweeping in. Rome was nervous, and so was Jerusalem. Were they really ready for an all out war with the greatest army known to man? Jesus did not have an army, who was He going to lead into the battle that would plague the land in just a few short days, if this was not stopped now.
This week, the Passion Week reminds me of the parable of the sower and the seeds. The seeds of the kingdom were sown, some of the seeds hit the pathways and the birds ate them before they even had a chance. Some of the seeds fell among the weeds and were choked out. Some seeds fell among the rocks taking off quickly but withering away. Others fell on good soil. The nation was passionate about being free, but they didn’t have depth. There were rocks causing the soil to be shallow. They wanted freedom but they worried about the cost of that freedom. In one week we move from honoring the king to a trial that calls for his death. In one week we move from laying our cloaks down at his feet to stripping the king of his clothes and whipping his back. In one week we move from honoring to demanding his blood. Yes we are included.
The initial excitement of a gift quickly fades when it comes time to buy the gift. Will the other like what I chose or will they think I am a rotten person for thinking this is nice? We go from joy to dread in just a few steps from the shelves to the register. We take out our wallets wondering if this is the right thing. Yet we press on because we desire to honor the one we love. Jesus came with full knowledge where His life would lead. He grew into His role and embraced it fully. He knew that we as humans move from acceptance to hatred quicker than a racecar can complete a quarter mile. We get worked up and fizzle out. He knew all this and He still climbed on that donkey. He knew what would happen and He still rode it into the city. He listened to the songs, knowing full well that the songs would morph into jeers. He did this because He knew what was needed.
Humanity is passionate, we get excited about many things but mostly ourselves. Jesus gave Himself. We think very hard before sacrificing our lives yet He rode that donkey right under the nose of Rome, because the price to pay was far less costly than the return. Jesus is the King not only of a small nation on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, but of all creation. He gave his life so that we could have hope. He took on our greatest enemy, death, and He looked it square in the eyes and said Forgive them for they know not what they do. So often we get excited and leave the doors of our meetinghouses not remembering what was said. We leave focused not on the kingdom but our own lives. Jesus came to bring a new kingdom, not like one seen on earth, a kingdom of the heart. It is a nation that transcends all others because it has no borders, it has no race, it has no gender, but all are equal. He came to be the light of the world but we love the darkness. Every day that we turn our eyes off of God and focus on ourselves, we cry with the crowds crucify him, but when we leave here with the desire of Loving God, Embracing the Holy Spirit, and Living Christ’s love with others our hearts chant Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. The world cannot stand against our king. They tried and failed they hung him on the cross. And our fears, our shames, our judgment, and our sins died there with him. But death cannot hold us because the Light has come.
As we enter this time of open worship let us consider how we can honor our king this week and let us praise him for the hope he has given us.