Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Palm Sunday sermon on Mark 11:1-11

In our Gospel reading we find Jesus is in control (vv1-6).
His entry into Jerusalem is carefully stage-managed.
He’s in control of the details – he knows which donkey is tied up where (v2).
He knows the future – he knows what will happen.
He knows men’s hearts – he knows what people will say and do.
It seems safe to deduce that Jesus is in control of everything.

In life we face all sorts of difficulties and uncertainties.
We don’t know what the future will hold or how we’ll handle it.
But we can be sure that Jesus is in control.
He knows what he’s doing.

Jesus chooses, v2, a colt that has never been ridden.
Jesus, the Master of creation, rides an unbroken colt.
Jesus is in charge even of beasts.
Way back at creation, Adam had been put in charge of all the animals.
He’d exercised his authority over them by naming them.
Mark is showing us Jesus is the new and better Adam who perfectly rules creation.
He is able to do what no-one else can do.

Jesus has a plan, a purpose, a destiny, that he’s deliberately fulfilling.
V1 tells us that Jesus is going up to Jerusalem.
If we’d been reading through this gospel, we’d know what that means.
For example, in 10:32-24, just back over the page, we read:
“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.
Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.
[Again, notice that Jesus knows the future]
"We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law.
They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.
Three days later he will rise."
Jesus knows he’s going to die in Jerusalem, but he goes there anyway.
I would have headed in the opposite direction!
Jesus is deliberately going to the cross.
Jesus intends to give his life as a ransom for many (10:45).
He will die, that we might live.
He takes the punishment for you and me.

Although Jesus is completely in control, he uses his disciples (vv1-2).
He sends them with a significant job to do.
No doubt Jesus didn’t really need them.
He could have sent angels.
Or he could have miraculously summoned the donkey.
But Jesus chooses to use his disciples.
Might he use even you and me?
Perhaps he would!
Are we ready and willing for Jesus to use us?
If Jesus is to use them, Jesus’ disciples must do as they’re told.
Are we willing to do what Jesus tells us?
Are we willing to do what Jesus says, even if it seems odd and uncomfortable, as perhaps it did to these disciples, and to those who saw them take the colt away?
Are we willing to risk trouble and challenge for Jesus?

Would you give Jesus your donkey? (vv3-6)
Perhaps you can imagine possible objections and excuses.
“I’m really sorry, but it’s just not terribly convenient just at the moment.”
“It’s such short notice: I’ve got other plans for the donkey today.”
“I’d be really stuck without my donkey. There are other people who could lend you theirs.”
“How do I know I’ll get my donkey back?”
Can you really trust Jesus with your stuff?
Is he the Lord, the Master, of everything you have?
Are your time, and energy, and money, and home, and possessions, and holidays at his disposal, if “the Lord has need of them” (v3)?

Jesus is deliberately fulfilling the Scriptures here.
More or less explicitly, Jesus fulfils several Old Testament passages:

Jesus sending 2 men to look for a donkey is probably significant.
In the Old Testament, Saul was anointed as king, and then he met 2 men who tell him that the donkeys he’s been looking for have been found.
(1 Sam 10:2)

When Solomon, King David’s son, was anointed King he had ridden a donkey (1 K 1:33, 38).

The point is that Jesus is God’s anointed king – the new Saul, the new Solomon.

In Gen 49:8-12, Jacob / Israel says to his son Judah:
"Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father's sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion's cub, O Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness-- who dares to rouse him?
The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
[And here comes the donkey bit:]
He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.”
Jesus belonged to the tribe of Judah.
He is the long-promised one to whom the sceptre and the ruler’s staff and the obedience of the nations belong.

In Zech 9:9-10, we read:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle-bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus is the righteous king who comes to save, who will rule the world, who will bring peace.

It’s surprising, perhaps, that Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt, a young horse.
The other gospels tell us it was a donkey.
A war horse might have been better for the King arriving in his capital.
But Jesus has come to bring peace, not war.
Jesus is a surprising sort of king – humble and gentle.
Jesus is re-writing the rules.
He shows us a new way of ruling.
Here are power and authority as they’re meant to be: at the service of others.
Here’s a revolutionary kind of leadership.
Again, back in Mark chapter 10 Jesus has just said:
"You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
Not so with you.
Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
On Palm Sunday Jesus is the king on a donkey.
On Good Friday he will be the king on a cross.
He is the humble, servant king.
The king who brings peace.

In v8 the people are spreading their cloaks before Jesus.
They’re giving Jesus the red-carpet treatment.
Sir Walter Reighley famously spread his cloak in front of Queen Elizabeth I when she was about to step in a puddle.
Spreading a cloak in the road is the kind of thing you do for royalty.
In fact, that’s a Bible idea.
In 2 Kings 9:13, when the people of Israel want to make Jehu king, they spread their cloaks before him.
Throwing cloaks in front of someone is treating them as a king.
It’s treating them like your king.
The crowd here are saying they want Jesus as their king.
They’re committing themselves to him and pledging their loyalty – throwing their lot in with Jesus’ revolution.

In v8 the people spread branches before Jesus.
Two hundred years before Jesus, Judas Maccabaeus defeated the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanies, entered Jerusalem and cleansed and rebuilt the temple.
The people waved ivy and palm branches as they sang hymns of praise.
Judas started a royal dynasty that lasted 100 years.
(2 Macc 10:1-9; cf. 1 macc 13:51).
Again, here is Jesus, the king who will conquer and set God’s people free.

“Hosanna” (vv9&10) is a shout of praise, but it means, “Save!”, “Save us now!”
It’s a cry for help.
Perhaps the people want Jesus to save them from the Romans, who’re occupying the country.
Maybe they’re just thinking of a political and military salvation.
Jesus is the Saviour, but he’s come to save us from sin and Satan and death and hell.
He brings a greater more lasting salvation than we might have imagined.

We sometimes think we know what Jesus is about, but Jesus often has other ideas.
He doesn’t always fit in to our expectations.
Sometimes we have to radically re-think.
Will we have Jesus on his terms?

The crowd who shout “Hosanna!” will soon be shouting “Crucify!”

[Do you know the hymn: My Song Is Love Unknown:]
“Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.”

Are we fickle in the way we follow Jesus?
Are we committed and consistent?

In v10 the crowd cries out, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David.”
Who knows how much the crowd understand this, but in fact, the Kingdom of David is coming because Jesus the King has come.
Jesus was literally a descendent of King David.
Remember he was born in Bethlehem, the city of David?
If you know your Christmas carols, you’ll remember this from While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night:
"To you, in David's town this day,
Is born of David's line
The Saviour who is Christ the Lord”
David had been promised that God would establish his son’s throne for ever (2 Samuel 7:13).
Jesus is great king David’s greater son.
He will reign for ever.

David was anointed as God’s chosen king.
Christ or messiah means anointed one.
Jesus is God’s long-awaited, promised rescuer king.

In v11, Jesus goes into the temple and has a good look around.
What did Jesus make of the Temple?
The cleansing of the Temple, which comes next, tells us.
He judged it as corrupt.
What would Jesus make of us?
What would Jesus think of our religion and worship?

Will we bow the knee to King Jesus, on his terms?
Will we do as he says and lay our all at his feet?

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