Mark 11:1-10– “As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ” They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord””Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!” If WE don’t lead the worship of JC…who will? If don’t proclaim kingship who will?
People are front-runners…we LOVE what’s popular. Whatever the latest fad is, it doesn’t take long before the majority inevitably jumps on the bandwagon. And likewise, it doesn’t take long before they jump back off and move on to the next new, big thing. In just a few days, the people in Jerusalem went from cheering Jesus like a rock star to yelling that they would rather save a criminal than this…person who blasphemes that He’s King of the Jews. The palm branches that were waved triumphantly as Jesus entered the city are now crushed under the heel of oppression and hatred. What happened? People changed their minds.
The world economy is based on the fact that we change our minds very quickly. The colors and lines that seemed SO spectacular in last year’s fashions don’t seem so good after all- in the cold, harsh light of…now. My phone (the Palm Pre), which was state of the art LAST summer, is now on the discount rack like another can of beans. The athlete who gets praised today for the game-winning, walk-off homer is the goat tomorrow because he lets a baseball roll between his legs.
Depending on what we hear, see and feel…depending on what our hopes, dreams and desires are- we can change loyalties so fast it’ll make your head spin.
One minute we’re filled with awe and wonder- hungry to hear God’s Word and act on it. And the next minute…not so much. We’re faced with temptation. Something aggravates us…or attracts us, and our loyalty to God is threatened and begins to evaporate, and all the things that seemed SO clear in our minds just a minute ago are now hazy. And although it might surprise US when that happens…it doesn’t surprise God in the least. In fact, He’s so aware of it, He has a name for it- sin.
So, why did all this happen to Jesus? On one level, it happened simply because the crowd asked for it. In fact, they demanded it of Pontius Pilate. “Crucify him!” And Pilate wanted to appease the crowd, so…he did it.
It’s easy for us to condemn the crowd. They were fickle, stupid, evil. What happened? How could they have changed so quickly? What happened to those excited, committed people who were at the parade? Where are they now? It’s easy to condemn them, but are we really that different? What would it take to make us drop our palm branches and walk away? The core of the Christian experience is the cross of Jesus Christ. Through that brief moment in history, we learn more about ourselves and about God that we could ever learn otherwise.
Mark 15:1-15- Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.” But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed. Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did. “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them. “Crucify him!” they shouted. “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
No matter how much you keep the law, no matter how good you are, it’s never going to be quite good enough. That’s why Jesus came in the first place, to die for us, to pay the price for our sin, to bring us into right relationship with God. Jesus came to take the penalty for what WE deserve- our selfishness, our willfulness, our amazing capacity to ignore God, ignore each other. We go to church every week. We sing all the right songs, recite all the right prayers- but if it’s just going through the motions- what’s the point? In the book of Isaiah, God says, “these people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” We have to stop and ask ourselves, “Why do we do what we do? The Bible reminds us that God doesn’t want empty ritual- He wants true worship. He doesn’t want our “religion”, He wants our relationship. He wants the intimacy that comes with that relationship. He wants us to give ourselves to Him…out of love.
Mark 15:33-47– At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” It was the day before the Sabb
ath. So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
Why did Jesus die on the cross? Did He HAVE to? God could have done something. He could have stopped this atrocity…so why didn’t He? Was it not enough that they mocked Jesus, and spit on Him, and whipped Him, and beat Him nearly to death? Did He have to suffer an agonizing death on a Roman cross as well? And all this time, God is silent. He could have commanded armies of angels to stop the insanity, to save His only begotten Son. But…He didn’t. Why did God just stand back and let this happen? Why the cross? Why did it all happen?
On a divine level, it happened NOT because of us…but FOR us. It happened because God loves us. That’s how big our problem with sin is. It’s big enough that Jesus…God with us…had to suffer and die so that it could be forgiven. If it were just a matter of teaching us something else to obey, God would have done THAT instead of the cross. But there was no other way. There IS no other way. The cross is the only bridge that exists between us and God. It’s the only way our sin can ever be forgiven.
And so on this Palm Sunday, as we look ahead to Holy Week, I invite you to put aside whatever is standing in the way…and come to Jesus. We need to continue to prepare our hearts and minds for a resurrection celebration on Easter Sunday. Come to the cross today and experience the incredible, encompassing, sacrificial love of God so that NEXT Sunday you can come to the tomb and experience the incredible, encompassing joy of a risen Savior. It’s a dark day…but Sunday coming!
Thanks for stopping by…I pray you have a blessed Palm Sunday! Please stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!