Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Palm Sunday

Cheddington 5 April 2009

Reading Psalm 118

19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
       I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.

20 This is the gate of the LORD
       through which the righteous may enter.

21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
       you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
       has become the cornerstone;

23 the LORD has done this,
       and it is marvellous in our eyes.

24 The LORD has done it this very day;
       let us rejoice today and be glad.

25 LORD, save us!
       LORD, grant us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
       From the house of the LORD we bless you.

27 The LORD is God,
       and he has made his light shine on us.
       With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
       up to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
       you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
       his love endures forever.

Gospel Mark 11

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.' "

4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, "What are you doing, untying that colt?" 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
       "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

10 "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!"
       "Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.


Today we celebrate triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Deliberately unusual way – on a donkey. Why? Fulfilment of Zechariah 9.9:

9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
       Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
       See, your king comes to you,
       righteous and having salvation,
       lowly and riding on a donkey,
       on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

So what is Jesus claiming to be? King? Messiah?

Mark is not clear: one who comes in the name of the Lord. Maybe even the crowds don’t appreciate what is actually going on. People shout Hosanna = Save now! Remember the meaning! Hosanna in the Highest! Is virtually meaningless as we say it at Christmas.

Save from what? Roman occupation? Save from slavery of sin? Probably from occupying power, as the people found their salvation through obedience to law and not belief in any one individual, even Messiah.

So probably acclaiming a King. King of Jews. How apt – given Pilate’s sign on cross. King in the line of David. Things become clearer in the story as cross approaches.

Triumphal Entry in all 4 gospels. Details vary – how disciples find ass, how it is prepared, what they are told to say – but all agree on what actually happened. Coming into city riding on ass would be royal prerogative. Most people would walk, so there is little doubt some sort of royal claim is being made, backed up by prophecy.

All this interesting historically, but is that all it means to us now? Is it just the start of Holy Week and a familiar piece in jigsaw puzzle of events recorded prior to trial and crucifixion? This is what we have been asking in Lent Course.

Started in OT during Advent. Need to understand what it is to be acclaimed Messiah. Militaristic title – king warrior. Very different from Christ. So not surprising people shout Save Now from oppression by occupying power. Not a personal salvation at all, but a national one. King in line of David. King of Jews.

In Lent, we reflect on Christ’s claims for himself, and our response to them. Jesus claims to be the Way, Truth and Life. Following the Way leads to Life.

But the Way is not a set path. In Triumphal Entry, Jesus follows a known way. People line the way. The way goes into Jerusalem. Everyone knows the destination. You just follow road indicated. Everyone goes same way. Same destination. Only means of travel different.

Jesus’ Way is not like that. Why? He does not show the Way. He himself IS the Way. No one can show you the way to follow. I can’t. No one can. It’s not like a road map. No set of instructions to follow. The answer personified. We walk with him. Only by walking the walk can we be fully alive. Like a guided walk.

Holy Week means we walk the Passion of Jesus and try to understand what he went through both as a man and as Son of God. The magnitude of the sacrifice made for us. The agony of separation from the Father. The trial. Betrayal by all he held dear. Abandonment by those closest to him. The humiliation of the cross.

But death was turned into life. Defeat into victory. Burial into the mystery of an empty tomb. So let’s set out on this journey together during the next 7 days, observe a holy holy week, and aim to deepen our faith as we walk alongside our Saviour who came that we might have life, and in doing so have it abundantly. Amen

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