Summary: Jesus' entry into Jerusalem while seated on a donkey demonstrates that he is not the Messiah that the people expect. Jesus is a Messiah who comes in love and rules by love.
Mark 11:1-11 “Palm Sunday—Two Parades”
We are back to where we started—at the beginning of the final week of Jesus’ life on earth. We have watched and listened as the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders escalated. We have witnessed both a lack of faith and displays of great faith. All of the action started here—at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Sunday.
THE DEPTH OF LOVE
This passage of Scripture opens with the words, “When they were approaching Jerusalem.”
We celebrate God’s overwhelming and steadfast love on many occasions in our lives and throughout the church year. Many of us have memorized that beautiful passage of Scripture, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him would perish, but have eternal life.”
These first words of today’s lessons convey to us the depth of Jesus’ love—for both the Father and for us. Three times previously Jesus predicted his suffering and death. Jesus was well aware of what was in store for him. Still, he set his face toward Jerusalem and he would allow nothing to distract him from his mission and his destiny. One time he told his disciples, “What great love is this that a man would lay down his life for another?” Yes, what great love, indeed!
The theme of love is a constant in the life and ministry of Jesus. Certainly it is the melody that we hear as he enters Jerusalem and lives out his final week.
A DIFFERENT MESSIAH
Many believe that there were two entrance parades in Jerusalem that Sunday. From the West Pontius Pilate was entering Jerusalem. He had traveled down from the seat of government at Caesarea. Pilate was coming to Jerusalem because of the celebration of the Passover. He would not observe the feast, but he wanted to be close incase the celebration became a demonstration against the Roman government.
On the East side Jesus enters Jerusalem. Jesus entrance is a parody of Pilate’s entrance. Instead of legions of soldiers Jesus has a crowd of disciples. Jesus rides in on a donkey and not a stallion. Pilate’s entrance is meant to impress with power. Jesus enters Jerusalem humbly.
Jesus’ entrance is intentional. It is not because Jesus could not find a horse, or marshal two or three hundred people. Jesus demonstrates by his entrance into Jerusalem that he is a different kind of Messiah than the people expect. He is not going to overthrow the Roman government by political power and physical strength. Jesus rules through love and love’s life transforming power. Jesus is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and the suffering servant.
The actions of the crowd clearly show that they don’t catch the message that Jesus is trying to communicate. They think that Jesus is the strong, kick-butt Messiah for whom they have been waiting for so long. “Hosanna” they cry out. “Save us, now!” They are looking for Jesus to exercise his power and cast out the Romans like he has done the demons.
Jesus doesn’t stop the people from their celebration and their cries for action. In fact, he tells the religious officials that if the crowd were to become silent, the stones would cry out. Jesus accepts where the people are. He knows that they aren’t perfect, nor do they fully understand what is happening.
Being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t enable us to immediately “get it.” Following Jesus is a life of learning. The first Christians eventually discovered that Jesus was not going to overthrow the world’s governments. They also came to learn that Jesus wasn’t going to return as quickly as they had first thought. As they walked with Jesus, they began to learn how the Holy Spirit moved and how God ruled in our lives.
We (hopefully) learn the same lessons. There are those times when we want God to wield his power—to immediately heal someone we love, provide for financial relief, reverse our parking ticket, or make sure that our lives are disaster proof. Over and over again we learn that this is usually not how the Holy Spirit moves in our world and in our lives. Little by little, as we walk with Jesus, we learn that God moves and rules differently than the world’s nations and leaders.
Throughout this week we will continue to see the depth, steadfastness and power of Jesus’ love. His love for people drives him in to conflict with the greedy and corrupt. His love for the world drives him to the cross. His love does more than confront—it overcomes.