The Triumphal Entry – Mark 11:1-11.
1. The Triumphal Entry
Each year we enter Holy Week with the retelling of the story of the triumphal entry – the day that Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem in pageantry. It was a very strange day. Jesus was doing something that he had not done before. Every where else he had walked. This day he rode. Everywhere else he had entered the cities and towns of Palestine quietly and without fanfare. Now he makes arrangements for his entry in pomp and circumstance. Up until this moment he had kept his identity hidden. “Tell no one” was a familiar phrase after he had done his miracles. But on this day, he reminds his detractors that if the crowds were to go silent, the rocks would cry out.
This is a different Jesus than we have seen, than the disciples have seen. And they are jubilant. This is what they have waited for. They get involved in this ticker tape parade, helping with the enthroning of Jesus on the donkey. They lay their cloaks on the animal and in the street, they help with scattering palm leaves before his feet. They join is the words “Hosanna” They are now seeing take place what they had hoped would take place.
Of course, Jesus is in a very different frame of mind. He weeps as he enters the city. He is not elated. This week is the week of his death, and he knows it. But he weeps not because he is about to die. He weeps because these people are about to make a choice that will prove disastrous to themselves.
People have been confused as to his identity from the very start. Some think, of him as a miracle worker. Others as a great prophet. Some as a very clever Rabbi. Some think he is the revolutionary that will rescue them from the Romans. Many opinions. With that confusion how can people make a choice. The time has come for him to tell it straight. To remove the doubt. On this day he takes the wraps off. He removes the disguise. He intentionally goes out of his way to fulfill a prophesy from one of Israel’s ancient prophets.
He is saying in this very act, that he is the Messiah that they long waited for. He is the king that they were hoping for. And in the triumphal entry he offers Himself to be their leader. The people will need to choose. Will they accept him or reject him? Jesus is calling for the vote.
2. The Events of the Cross
As that week evolves the votes begin to be cast. The leaders cast their votes early. “No way! We will not have this man to rule over us.” Judas Iscariot casts his vote. It is “No”. By Friday morning the votes are cast. The same crowds that were present at the triumphal entry are there now on the day of His trial. They now know that Jesus is soft on sinners, soft on gentiles, is not here to thrash the Romans. As long as he was the bread King, the wine maker, a miracle monger they loved him. But they are not about to turn the other cheek, go the second mile or leave all to follow him. They want an easier life, not a better one. And so they cast their vote. “Crucify Him. Let’s have Barabbas instead.” And the disciples who had voted “yes” knew themselves out- numbered and disappeared into the night.
The offer of Palm Sunday is rejected on the Friday, and he is lead off to be crucified on a cross.
The cross is a strange symbol. It has two messages.
The Cross is the sign of our rejection of Him. Jesus made the offer. We nailed him and it to a scaffold. The cross is a symbol of the human tendency for violence. It is the symbol that declares that this is what we have always done to God and goodness. The cross is the reminder that there is something in us that is at cross purposes with God.
But that is only half of the symbolism. If it were only the reminder of our proneness to do hurt to one another and to truth, beauty, and value, it would make Christian faith a morbid thing. We would go through life flagellating ourselves, wearing horsehair shirts.
But the cross is also the ultimate demonstration of the love of God. It declares without any ambiguity that God loves us enough, to do whatever it takes to bring about reconciliation. God knew of the human tendency to distrust. We have become so cynical that if someone were to do us good, we are prone to suspect an ulterior motive. If someone were to act with generosity, we would start to wonder what they want. But God wanted to express how He felt about us so that we could make our choice on the facts and not on the mythology.
If your child was in medical jeopardy, and the cure could only come from a procedure not covered by OHIP how much would you pay to bring health to your child? Would you re-mortgage your house? Would you cash in your RSP’s? Would you cancel that expensive vacation, and drive your aging car instead of buying the new one? Oh yes. If you loved your child, you would pay anything. You would mortgage your entire future, because love is prepared to be that extravagant. And if a few months later your child asked the question, “do you love me?” you could say “yes, I’ve told you a thousand times.” But if your child insisted, “But do you really love me?” You could point to that sacrifice you made, and say, “there is the evidence, and I would do it all over again.” The proof would be there, except to the most cynical.
And here is the dilemma of God. He had declared his love for Israel and for humanity a thousand times, and because we are prone to skepticism, we wonder if it is really true. Then we hear the word “that God so loved the world that he gave his only son.” For God to give money, to mortgage his house, to offer a billion dollars, would not convince us. We would say, “He has money to burn.” But when he gave Himself in His son, and offered the ultimate sacrifice, for many of us it was the ultimate proof that we had been waiting for.
The cross is the demonstration not only of the virulence of human evil, but also of the extravagance of Divine love. If the Cross tells us, what our sins have done to God times beyond counting. That same cross tells us what God has done to our sins – he has forgiven them all, even the most dastardly.
For the past few weeks we have been thinking about the significance of the death of Jesus Christ. The key word has been “atonement” which simply means “Reconciliation” We know what reconciliation means in every day life. Husbands and wives often need reconciliation. Parents and children often need reconciliation. Friends who fall out need reconciliation. But if it takes two to tango, it always takes two to create reconciliation. Reconciliation is always a two way street. It cannot be forced by one of the parties. It is not a unilateral decision made by one of the parties in the face of the resistance of the other party. Reconciliation takes place when both sides understanding each other and trust each other.
But how will this process begin. Someone must begin the attempt. One person must swallow their pride, and value something more than a hurt ego. Someone must take the initiative.
And the scriptures tell us that God has taken the initiative. The cross is God’s telegram that says, “I want to make peace. Can we talk?”
4. The Appeal
What response do we make to that overture? We get to vote today on this Palm Sunday.
We can say “Thanks, but no thanks. I still want to travel solo.”
Or, we can say, “O God, I’m sorry I have not trusted you. Can we talk about it?”
We beg of you, in Christ’s stead, “Be reconciled to God!”
Hymn 342 “Just As I Am”