Getting Ready for the Parade
Sunday, March 25, 2018 – Palm Sunday
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
St. Timothy’s UMC
Mark 11:1-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
11 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the vil- lage ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here imme- diately.’” 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you do- ing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
It was the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, 1982. We had traveled to New York City from our small rural mid-western college. Some of our choir was from the Northeast, but the majority of our singers were rural city or farm boys and girls from the mid-west. Excited to be in New York City to sing at the famed New York Unitarian Church, we spent a good part of the afternoon after rehearsal sight-seeing; the Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Build- ing, The Metropolitan Opera, and the list continued. We were in awe of what we were seeing. It was magnificent to behold.
Our concert was that night. After the concert we embarked to a wonderful Italian restaurant with great food. Following dinner, some of us ventured out into the night life of New York City. Being good rule followers we re- turned even before curfew. My roommate, a mid-western farm boy from Central Indiana was awe struck with what he had seen. Our hotel window faced Broadway and for several hours we just watched the people.
Traveling to Boston the next day, we retired early because morning was coming early. As we awoke, I went to the window and pulled open the blinds. What I saw is still etched in my memory! The eyeballs of the Mick- ey Mouse Balloon, the large parade balloon, were staring in our window! I jumped back and screamed. Carl rolled over in his bed and uttered a true mid-western boys explicative. We couldn’t believe it! I mean a larger than life parade balloon was eye level with us! It took us a few minutes then we realized, New York City was getting ready for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. What sticks in my mind the most about that day was the sense of awe that overwhelmed us when we, two mid-western boys, realized that a parade of that magnitude was just in front of us!
We have before us this morning in the Gospel text from Mark, a very simi- lar type of event! It was the parade or “triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem”. It was the event that would begin to change the course of his- tory as we know it in the Christian world.
You see, we as modern day Christians jump right to the purpose of the pa- rade, bringing Jesus to his untimely death and the shouting of Hosanna and we leap-frog into the understanding of resurrection. A simple fact my friends is that you can’t have resurrection until death occurs! One of my pet peeves is that our culture (Christian and secular) repeatedly say we want to talk about “death and dying.” You can’t do that! You have to talk about dying before death occurs. Hence this text is so often taken out of kilter of the story we need to hear.
You see, this story is all about getting ready for the parade and the parade itself! Jesus had done his Bible work! He knew what he needed to do to get the people’s attention. He re-enacted a story that had already been predicted and prophesied. The entry into Jerusalem was what we call a “messianic” demonstration. Almost a type of protest in Jesus’ mind. For you see He and They were acting out the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9-10, a peasant king riding on a donkey. It was rather a “slap in the face” for what the people were expecting, some wanted the King to enter in a horse- drawn chariot, flanked by a military tribunal. But what they got was a man riding on a colt (or young donkey).
As we read this carefully, it has the makings of a “great set-up.” The branches were spread out for the entry of the “king” but if we read it care- fully, they weren’t laid out by those who were awaiting in Jerusalem, they were spread out by those “who went ahead.” They were the ones “shout- ing Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest heaven.” In a sense they were prep- ping the crowd.
So, what was the intention of this “parade”? I believe it was to get the at- tention of the people and to prepare them for Jesus’ encounters in the days ahead. It was a comedy and a drama all rolled into one! It was a setting of the stage in order that “we,” Christians, could understand the love that Je- sus provided for us. We are given, in the parade, an understanding of a love that withstands the horror of crucifixion. One commentator put it like
this, “It is a kind of love that displays how illusive our sense of reality often is.” Jesus really did fool us with this messianic understanding! He fools us into having a hope that is beyond all hope!
In W.W. II, it was widely known that as young men were drafted or signed up for the military, they would go to their local libraries and check out one or two books just prior to leaving. The reason being, it would give them hope to return alive and be able to return the books when they returned. This was both an illusion and the hope for living! We want to go to the safe place rather than the real world that associates with dying and death.
It is through this entire narrative that shows “Jesus entering Jerusalem, rid- ing humbly on a donkey, is the miracle of God’s complete attention.” Out of the mockery of the triumphal entry are we not only preparing for the en- try of the Messiah, but we are preparing to give God all of our attention and understanding of what we do or can do.
How much attention are we going to give God this Holy Week? I’m not talking just about the special services, those that are important, but how much time apart from those are we going to give God? How much time are we going to give to prepare for this entry today and the journey this week? Are we going to be the ones who go along side, ahead and behind and shout Hosanna? Or are we going to be the expectant people of the city that see the King coming in on a young donkey? Waiting to receive God’s love with the fullest of attention?
This is a challenging week my friends! It is a week that will demand that you do some work on getting closer to the Cross. It will be a week that will require you to be attentive to God in ways you may have never thought were possible. It is a week that requires you to look at the parade seriously and move forward with the love of Christ at your back. You do not have an option not to move!
May the grace of God go with you, accompany you, and fulfill you as your parade continues.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! AMEN!