Mark 11: 1-11; Mark 14: 32-42
April 5, 2009
(NOTE: today's sermon is a joint venture between myself and the chancel choir, where the choir sings a song and a I follow with a short first-person sermonette. I think it came out pretty cool.)
Fling open wide your hearts and greet the coming of the Lord
Who is the King of glory? The Lord of hosts!
He is the King of glory
All glory, laud and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King
To whom the lips of children made hosannas ring.
Thou art the King of Israel, Thou David's royal Son
Who in the Lord's name comes, the King and Holy One!
("The King of Glory" - Martin)
They have him on this colt and they're parading him through the streets of Jerusalem. It's quite a sight. They're laying their cloaks down in front of him; waving palm branches high in the air. Some of them are shouting all kinds of things: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! It's not that he needs the adoration or even wants it. But I can tell – it means a lot to them. It means a lot to our people who've had it hard for so long. For once, we're finally getting a chance to celebrate. For once, we can smile.
And yet as great as this is, I wonder – I wonder if they really understand what it is they're doing. Because way on the other side of the city, there's another parade going on. It's the parade that happens every year at this time, ever since the Romans took over. See, this is the week of Passover, the most holy week of our Jewish faith. Hundreds of thousands make the pilgrimage from all over Palestine to Jerusalem, to be at the temple, to sacrifice and worship God. This city swells to twice its normal size, perhaps even more. That's a lot of people – a lot of people that make the Romans nervous. They have to hold on to their precious Pax Romana – Roman peace – by any means necessary. Any means.
So a while back they started sending a not-so-subtle message on the first day of Passover – they staged a parade. They hold it at the main city gates, on the other side of the city. The Roman governor is welcomed in with all the pomp and circumstance, legions of Rome's military finest, trumpets blaring and purple and gold flags waving. People come out by the thousands. It's a lot of fun – the kids all point at things and “ooh” and “aah.” But it's also dead serious, and everyone knows what's really going on. No trouble during Passover – or else.
That's the parade that's happening right now on the other side of Jerusalem. Which means this little thing we have going on here is not some innocent celebration. Over there, they're claiming Caesar as their Lord. Over there they are putting their trust and faith in Rome's military might and the false illusion that true power comes from how many troops you have, or how many cavalries process in, or how much clout you possess. Over there, they are waving their palm branches and throwing down their cloaks for something else entirely.
But here, here we are claiming Jesus to be “Lord” - borrowing Rome's own imperial language, even! Here we are putting our trust and faith in a man who was trained as a carpenter and has spent the better part of three years wandering the countryside in flip-flops and a worn cloak. Here we recognize that true power comes from nothing of this world.
They have him on a colt and they're riding him through Jerusalem. And I don't think any of them have a clue how dangerous this is, or where it's all heading. I guess we'll find that out soon enough.
all around on the ground where He weeps on his knees
Flowering trees shed their leaves in the garden of ears
In the garden alone, Jesus prays for the courage to face the day
Though He has known from birth why He came to earth
the reality now is moments away
Just a heartbeat away, lay his friends sleeping on their innocence
Completely unaware of the burden he bears
All alone in the garden of tears
In the garden of tears, Jesus' sweat drops like blood,
as he pleads with the Father to take away the cup
Yet He knows Ye will drink His fill on Calvary's hill,
Do the Father's will
In the darkness, the soldiers appear, like a lamb he is led away
Flowering trees shed their leaves in the garden of tears.
("Garden of Tears" - Schram)
I don't want this, okay? There, I said it. I don't want any of this. I'm tired, God. I'm so tired. I've been at this for – what – three years, now? And where has it gotten me? Here, in this garden, all by myself. And I know they're coming – I can feel it. I've felt it all week long, from the minute I sat on that colt and they paraded me through town and greeted me like a king. I knew it would come to this, when the crowds would be gone and I'd be left only with my thoughts and fears. And I don't want this any more. You can have all of it back.
Why did I not follow in my father's footsteps – I mean, my other father? I could be at home right now, sleeping peacefully in my own bed. I could wake up later this morning and head to my shop for a full day's work. Maybe I'd make a table for the family down the street, or a gate and fence for the herdsmen in town. Man, what I'd give for the life of a carpenter right now! I was pretty good at it, you know. I could've had a family and kids, and watched them grow up as I grew old. I could be anywhere other than here – all by myself. Even my friends can't stay awake. I don't want this!
You know, the thing is, maybe I'd be able to come to terms with this a little easier if I thought more folks actually got it. But most people saw in me only what they wanted to see. The Zealots saw the leader of their military revolution that would bring the Roman empire to its knees. The Pharisees saw the source of all their law-abiding angst – an easy target. The rich young man saw validation for a lifestyle he was not willing to part with. Even my disciples, my closest friends, even they had their own agendas at play.
And that's why I lived for those moments when your brilliance shone through to me, when I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that you were right there in the thick of it all. When Peter recognized me for who I was! When the blind man was able to see! When thousands of people on a mountainside went home with full stomachs! When that little guy up in the tree had me over for dinner! Those were the times I lived for, when I knew who I was and what I was here to do.
And now, I'm here in this garden. And I'm going to be honest with you, okay? I'm going to shoot straight – if there's any way to sidestep this, to go a different route; if there's any way for me to exit stage left and kind of ride off into the sunset, I'll take it. In a heartbeat. You made me human, God, you made me to feel like this. I can't help but want it to end a different way. I can't help but be scared.
But I know, Daddy, I know. I know what happens to people who dare to show and tell the world just how much you love them. I know. So I'll go along with this, okay? I'll go along with your plan. Just don't leave me, alright? You haven't left me yet. All I'm asking is that you don't leave me now. Especially now.
Would He devote that sacred head for sinners such as I!
Was it for sins that I have done He suffered on the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love, love beyond degree!
Will might the sun in darkness hide, and shut its glories in
When Christ the Great Redeemer died for human creatures' sin
Christ died for our sin!
But drops of grief can ne'er repay the debt of love I owe
Here, Lord, I give myself away, tis all that I can do
Christ laid down His life for me, what love, what love beyond degree!
("Love Beyond Degree" - Johnson)