Mark 11:1-11 is my scripture text this morning.....
It was something new and exciting. A parade was forming. Everyone started to run to see what was happening. The people started to stretch necks to see over the person in front of them. The young children crawled between the legs of the adults to see if they could gaze upon what was happening. Then everyone saw it! A man riding upon a donkey, and there were people racing in front of the man on the donkey throwing palm leaves and clothes in the path of the man and the donkey. People started to shout "Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" The crowd that gathered along the way started to catch the excitement, and they began to shout and run along side of the parade. As they were running, some in the crowd turned to another and asked, "Who is the man? Why are we shouting our Hosannas? Is he a king?" And the other turned and said, "Yes, we think he is a king, the King of the Jews, see he is riding on a donkey as it says in scripture that the Messiah would come." And the two of them ran off with the crowd caught up in the excitement of the moment.
And we can be like that too, caught up in the excitement of the moment as seen in the following: "A young man walked up the sidewalk toward his home late one Friday afternoon and was greeted by his two children. They laughed and bounced with more than the usual amount of excitement. "Daddy, Daddy, " the three-year-old started to say, "There’s a. . . " Whumpf! The five-year-old stuffed his palm vigorously across the three-year-old’s mouth. The three-year-old wrenched free, eyes still sparkling. "Daddy, Mommy and Jason and me have got a. . . " Whumpf! The hand closed across the mouth again, followed by these firm words from the five-year-old. "Sarah, if you don’t keep quiet, Daddy’s going to know there’s a surprise party inside for him!" After a moment of awesome silence, the five-year-old flushed. Dad artfully pretended not to have heard a word. He hugged both children and, laughing together, all three raced into the house. " The young children could hardly contain themselves with the excitement of the moment. They knew something exciting was going to happen and they could not hold it inside.
When the people in Jesus day saw him riding into Jerusalem that day, they knew that something exciting was happening. They knew that Jesus was riding as the Messiah would, and they thought they knew what that meant. They thought it meant they would be free from the Romans, they thought it meant that Jesus was going to be their King. So they got caught up in the excitement of the moment and celebrated, rejoiced at the picture which was forming in their mind’s eye. There it was….a picture of a king who would save them, a picture of a nation reborn, a picture of a people who would be free to be a mighty nation again. So they celebrated, they danced down the street, they shouted Hosannas!! It was a giant street party! How exciting….wouldn’t you have loved to have been there?
And then… just a few short days later,… that same crowd… cried, crucify him, crucify him. They learned that the picture which was developing in their mind’s eye what not the picture that Jesus was painting for himself. The dreams of that Palm Sunday were soon turned into the stark realities of the betrayal,… the trial… and the crucifixion. Their dreams were paraded down the streets of reality. The reality of the situation was Jesus was not the kind of hero they hoped he would be. Jesus was not the kind of king to lead an earthly army. Jesus would not deliver the Jews from the Romans. Their dreams of who Jesus was turned into the reality of Jesus as a heavenly Messiah which they could not understand. Even Jesus… as he rode into Jerusalem wept for his beloved city, as it says in Luke’s gospel, for he knew the dreams of this day would turn into the reality of pain, death, and suffering. During the week that followed this great triumphant ride into the city, Jesus spoke of the realities of who he was. Remember, he cleansed the temple. He told of the temple’s demise, he told of the coming of the Son of Man. In a sense he shattered the dreams of the people that day. He told of the reality of was to come. The reality of death.
The crowds of Good Friday turned against Jesus for one reason because he didn’t fulfill the dreams they had of him the Sunday before. Jesus had them see the reality of who he was, not an earthly king, but a heavenly king. He was not a warrior who would come to destroy the Romans. But Jesus was a warrior who would come to destroy death. He shattered the dreams of the people. He gave them a taste of reality and for that the people turned against him. Jesus was painting a picture of a suffering Messiah. A Messiah who would suffer for the sins of the all people. And the people cried crucify him because they could not understand that he was to be the suffering Messiah. They cried crucify him because Jesus did not fulfill their expectations. They cried crucify him because Jesus had let them down. They cried crucify him because they wanted a warrior king who would lead them into battle. Jesus was the lamb who was to be sacrificed! The people missed the point and they were angry. What about us. Do we get the point?
Or are we like the boy in the following: A bunch of kids, one summer afternoon, we involved in a pee-wee baseball game. When one little guy came up to the plate, he looked over to the coach for a signal. The coach signaled to sacrifice bunt. The little kid promptly proceeded to take three big swings and strike out. The coach ran up to him afterwards and said: "Didn’t you see me give you the signal to sacrifice?" "Yes," the boy replied. "But I didn’t really think you meant it."
But I didn’t really think you meant it. Is that how we react to Jesus. We really don’t think you meant to be the suffering Messiah. Are we like the crowd way back then, still wanting Jesus to be a conquering, warrior! Or? Or do we get it. Do we understand? "Do we understand that instead we get a Messiah who gives us power all right, but it’s a whole new kind of power, it’s THE POWER OF SUFFERING LOVE! It’s a power that looks me in the eye, forgives my sin, my fear, my anger, my resentment, my prejudice! It’s a power that didn’t assert itself over and against me, but died for me! It’s a power that sets me free from all of that which is within me that dehumanizes me and others! It’s a power that loosens my grip on all of my expectations and even allows me to see Christ’s face in the least and most lowly on this planet! It’s a power that relates in grace, and invites me to join with him in being one of his special grace givers. It’s a power that assures me I don’t need to be afraid of suffering, self-giving love, because it’s the only way I will ever fulfill my humanity, and find my purpose, and experience true joy and peace."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: "God allows himself to be edged out of the world and on to the cross....and that is the way, the only way, in which he can be with us and help us....Only a suffering God can help."
The crowds on that first Palm Sunday wanted a Warrior King, but Jesus came as a suffering Messiah. Jesus came as one who would die on a cross for the sake of human kind. The crowd missed the point. The crowd thought they knew but did not. So….What about us? Do we get it? Is Jesus the suffering Messiah for us? Or are we still looking for a Warrior King who will turn the world upside down? Do we see Jesus as the suffering Messiah who did turn the world upside down for our sake and continues to shape the world with his love and grace? (pause)…..A parade gathers, we see Jesus coming, but what do you see?