Message for Sunday, March 29, 2015. Scriptures used were Mark 11:1-11 and Isaiah 50:4-9a. The title was “Enter the King??”
I have a few questions for you that you don’t really have to answer, you can if you want, but mainly I want you to think about these things. Have you ever been at a funeral or the family service before a funeral and seen members of the family laughing, and you wondered what was going on? What about being at a big celebration like a family reunion, a wedding or a birthday and seen people crying? I do some of the most crying at so called “happy” events. I probably cry more at sporting events, or major “once in-a-life-time” things than during what should be really sad times.
I thought the term for that was Pathos, but when I looked it up, I saw that the meaning is about arousing an emotion such as pity or a sorrow for something. Yet, maybe it is pathos when I cry at a wedding because I am feeling pity for the couple with what they will be facing…no, I am kidding on that one. Perhaps the feeling is sort of a sympathetic compassion for what has been lost or what is in the past, or what can never be again. Winning a state championship, the tears you shed there are for the joy, but also for the sacrifice, and then for the fact that the time you worked to do this, especially if there is any team effort involved, that time will not ever happen again. The same for things like birthdays or anniversaries, or reunions. The tears are for the days that we can think about, remember talk about, but those days will never, ever come back. Things will never happen quite like that again, and certainly times will never be the same.
And on the happy note of that, in some cases, we will say, “and thankfully so.” When we remember back to the days where we worked for $1.00 an hour, and of course the prices were all different, but the way you did things, I think of the wringer washers and the 5 bottom plows and the small square bales that you handled one at a time by hand, and before those days, the cows were milked while sitting on a stool, or the house was heated by wood you chopped and carried into the back porch or from the coal that was poured into the basement, and diseases were beaten (sometimes) without antibiotics and on and on. Some things in our lives are better changed and improved.
I wonder if we would have looked on the triumphal entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday morning so many, many years ago with the same sort of pathos as we do at events of our times. Did anyone standing in the crowd take a moment to step back and watch the parade with a tear in their eye wondering at the magnitude of what they were witnessing? Did anyone stop to look at their neighbor and realize that they would never, ever witness anything like it again in their time, or in anytime, ever? I wonder if by any chance there might have been anyone like that in the crowd. Who knows!
What we know is that Jesus knew. Jesus understood what was going on that day. According to what we read in Mark, it was not so very many verses earlier, just before Jesus healed the blind beggar sitting at the side of the road, that Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
This story of Jesus riding triumphantly into Jerusalem on this unbroken colt is perhaps one of the best examples of a juxtaposition (a juxtaposition is putting to things side by side that are really opposites) that you can find anywhere in anything written. Here you have this grand happy wonderful parade through the streets. When I checked in an Atlas of the Bible, I read that from Bethany to Jerusalem, which is pretty much the parade route, you are talking of approximately a two mile trek. Here we have these two miles of walking on a dusty road basically in a desert, and the road seems to be going uphill (probably if it would be told by one of our ancestors it was uphill both ways). It probably wasn’t in the morning since some of the gospels indicate the group started the day in Jericho, It is more likely in the afternoon, but we really aren’t given an exact time of day in the scriptures. But it is a parade. There is an air of triumph. Yes, it is spontaneous, but it is this wonderful little parade as people line the road way to see Jesus, the young man who has been going around teaching and healing and telling about a life that is better than any they have ever know.
Part of the amazement of this scene is the difference between this parade and the other victory parades of their day. There probably haven’t been too many parades in their area, but anyone who has studied any of the stories about Ancient Rome know how those leaders acted after a battle when they went back to Rome or to any of their leading cities coming home in grand military triumph. They rode into town with, well, almost with the blood still on their hands. They brought back all the spoils of war including objects of treasure for the coffers of the government as well as plenty of captives including prisoners and slaves for their many pleasures. It wasn’t a pretty sight unless you were one who stood to gain.
This parade of Jesus was a real contrast to the parades of victory that the people were used to seeing or hearing about as part of the Roman kingdom. Jesus rode into Jerusalem as a humble Messiah, much as he was born into the world as a humble King. The people were looking for the only kind of leader they had ever known, the strong military type, but instead they were drawn to this caring, compassionate, wonderful young man, who seemed to know far more than anyone of his age could have learned at the best schools, yet he wasn’t the kind of nobility they were expecting. He wasn’t the soldier, warrior they were hoping for. But they were so compelled to honor him that they tore the branches off the trees as they were standing in the roadway, to make a path of some sort of honor for him to ride into the city.
And, as much as we might want to think of the parade as the contrast, the parade as the pathos of the day, it is what happens later in the week that is the real contrast. It is what we talk about as happening on Thursday night and Friday, when he is betrayed and crucified that makes the greatest contrast. Today is the story of the happy event. Today is the celebration of all the greatness, all the goodness of Jesus. It is the celebration of all the wonderful parts of what Jesus the man, Jesus the human leader of a large group of disciples has to offer to the people of his day.
So who is it in the middle of that crowd who dares to stand with a tear in their eye for the truth of the situation? Who is it that cries for the time that can never be brought back, for the events that will only happen again in the minds of the disciples? No one in that day, no, it isn’t the people on the parade route who feel that way. It is us. We are the ones who know the ending of that story. We watch the parade from here, and we know the disciples will be sitting at the Last Supper saying, surely it isn’t me that will betray you.” We know who it is.
But what we need to make sure of from our perspective in time, from our position in the audience, we need to make sure that when the question about who betrays Jesus comes our way, we need to be sure that we do not share that guilt with Judas. On this day, on this happy day of celebration, as we look to Jerusalem while standing and watching this happy parade of Jesus and his followers, we need to stop at the side of the road and ask ourselves if we are really doing all we can to share his story and his love for the world. Are we doing what Jesus would be doing if he were walking around in human form today? Or are we like Judas willing to betray him? These are tough questions to ask ourselves. If we are honest there is no clear-cut answer. If we are truthful, we are probably on both sides of that scenario at any given time. We are human, we are not infallible. Jesus was the only one that ever walked this earth who was without sin. Does that mean we shouldn’t try? Of course not, but it isn’t enough to just try to throw up our hands saying we can’t, no one can. We need to keep faithful, we need to keep vigilant, and we need to keep working to do what Jesus would want us to do. Remember he said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And everyone is our neighbor, no matter what. Love: that is Jesus greatest commandment and the last one that he left for his disciples, to love one another. As we go out today from this Palm Sunday celebration into the harsh reality of the Passion Week, let’s do more than simple remember Jesus life was all about his love for us; let’s make an effort to share it with someone. Amen!