Don’t worry. We’re not lost. We didn’t forget the Passion. You will hear it this morning; just not yet.mFor now, let’s linger in that first day.
Jesus is about to arrive in Jerusalem. In Mark’s gospel, this is the only time Jesus ever goes to the Royal City; the City of King David, of King Solomon, of the Temple. Everyone is there for the festival, coming from all over the empire. The people have heard that he will be there and the crowds are forming. They’ve heard about him. The whole city is abuzz with excitement, tension, hope, fear. Pilate will be there, too.
You can imagine being in the crowd, while they wait, picking up snippets of conversations. “They say he’s the Messiah!” “Have you heard about all those people he fed up in Galilee? Capernaum, wasn’t it?” “I heard it all started with that guy in the synagogue; he drove a demon out of him.” “I heard he stopped a storm on the lake.” “I know Herod hates him! That’s a good sign, isn’t it?” “He can even walk on water! At least that’s what I heard.”
You can feel the excitement. But this isn’t like the hometown parade for the newly-crowned Superbowl Champions. It’s not even like when they charge onto the field.
No, this is more like waiting for the aid unit when a loved one has collapsed; like watching your house burning while talking to your neighbors in the street, straining to hear the blaring sirens of the firetrucks on their way.
This could be the Messiah; the one they’ve been waiting for. The One called by God to save them. Save them from the Roman Oppressors and restore the kingdom of David! The One who would set them free.
And so, when the first ones catch sight of Jesus, they shout the psalm for the entry of the King: “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!” They roll out the red carpet, so to speak, anticipating victory as their king, their champion takes the field. The shouting spreads through the crowd.
“Save us,” they cry, “Save us in the highest heaven!” All their hopes are riding on him and the stakes are high.
But wait a minute. He’s on a donkey? Is he mocking the Romans? Or is he jogging their memory embodying the words of the prophet Zechariah who wrote, “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Is he declaring victory already won or proclaiming victory about to be won? Is he signaling that he is not the kind of king they expect; and the victory is not the one they demand?
In the gospels, Salvation takes so many different forms; always what the individual person needs. From feeding them to freeing them from the hold of demons; from healing devastating disease or disability to raising the dead to life.
He opens their eyes, revealing the kingdom of God and God’s abounding, steadfast love for them, especially for those society does not love. Salvation is about restoring them to wholeness and relationships, to themselves, to their livelihoods, to their families and communities and to God. What kind of salvation does our world need? Our country, our community, our parish? What kind of salvation do you want from Jesus? Is it the salvation he’s offering? How has Jesus already saved you?
Save us, Jesus, from our own hate; especially hate rooted in racism. Save us from hate directed at us. Save us from our fear and our dependence on violence and our trust in guns to save us. Save us from our indifference, our numbness to the onslaught of horrors, images on our ever-present screens.
Once Jesus is in the city, he goes up to the Temple and surveys the landscape. What does he see? What is he thinking?
He takes it all in and then leaves. Each day as the week unfolds, he’s in the city, in the Temple. I encourage you to take some time each day this week to
read from the gospel of Mark, from the middle of chapter 11 through the middle of chapter 14, where Jesus shares a last meal with his disciples.
Jesus is not the warrior king the people want. He does not overthrow Rome with immense power and violence. He challenges the Powers with Love. Loving his own no matter what. He doesn’t back down; he doesn’t stop doing what he has been doing all along.
And before the end of the week, the atmosphere in the city dramatically changes.