Mark 11:1-11 - Heartstrings at First United Methodist Church
Excitement about meeting Jesus
Two years in a row, in 2018 and 2019, I spent a little over a week in Israel. Standing where Jesus stood, kneeling where thousands of followers kneel to remember the story. I knelt before a large stone, and touched it, rubbed smooth by the thousands of years of people coming to remember Jesus’ praying for a different outcome, anything different…(Can you imagine how many hands had to touch that rock to make it smooth?)
We walked through a Jewish cemetery. And a Muslim one.
When you stand in the Garden of Gethsemane, you are standing on the side of a hill. Will a valley, deep and wide, between you and the walled, old city of Jerusalem. It is a place where story and location meet. Seeing what Jesus saw, standing where Jesus stood, brings you into the story…
You can see the teaching steps, where rabies and their disciples would have stood to teach the story of their God. You can see stones, larger than cars that have fallen through time, or war… and in awe wonder the dedication and commitment of those that build this city on this hill. Just one hill, in a see of hills. How did this hill become THE hill? You can see the Golden Gates, the now closed entrance to the old city where streams of people, would have come with their travelling clothes, and families, and animals to sacrifice… Standing in the middle of this ancient, ancient story, you can let yourself get drawn into this place, where the wall between now and ancient times is thin. This place where you can touch what is now and what was at the same time.
You can see the home of the king where the astrologers from the east came looking for a child born. You can almost hear the priests from that old, old religion pointing to the southeast, Bethlehem. Look in Bethlehem! You can feel the dry, dessert air, that Jesus followed to the wilderness, as he struggled with temptation, and grasping onto his story, because it was so much more than a matter of life, or death.
Standing in that place you can hear the teachings that have echoes through time, the storms the blew up on the sea of Galilee, and the nets cast, for fish, and for people.
If you stand there long enough, let the thinness of time take you on a journey, you can almost see Jesus, travelling through the Galilee, setting his face towards Jerusalem. On a path, to a future, that would lead to pain, and fear, and betrayal… You can almost feel the excitement in the air from his disciples. Them mistakenly believing this is going to be a journey to war, with swords, ending with Jesus sitting on a thrown. His disciples on his left, and on his right…
If you stand in that ancient place long enough, you can almost hear the crowds as Jesus and the disciples approached:
Here these words from the Gospel of Mark 11:1-10.
When [Jesus and the disciples] were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
May God Bless the reading, hearing, and understanding of this word…
Standing on that hill, on the Mount of Olives, with the ancient walls of this old, old city, you can almost hear the people crying out Hosanna. You can almost see, not the machine guns carried by military, but swords carried by the Roman Soldiers… You can almost feel the hope pouring out of that place. The Messiah has come to free us from the fear that permeates our air. The Messiah has come to bring the thousand years of peace and prosperity in this land of milk and honey. Blessed in the one who will bring back the way it was for our ancestor David.
Holy Week – Disciples
I wish I could stand on that hill for a week. I wish I could stand in that place as the sun set and rose again. As those that were on the fringes encountered the Messiah and wandered back to prepare their celebrations for the holiday week. I wish I could watch as the people that encountered the hope of the Messiah, responded with deep, joy-filled hope, and curiosity, and followed him, wanting to know more…but eventually watching those too make the decision to go back to work, or celebration, maybe changed forever by the encounter they had, but still work and family and friends… called them back to where they were.
I wish I could stand on that hill, watching that week unfold, watching the great crowd thin until it was just a few. Then watching those few betray him with a kiss on Thursday. Deny him with a rooster’s crow. Until he hung on a cross with women kneeling. In tears at feet of the broken body. I wish I could be present in this holy week. As Jesus takes his last breath. As they take him off the cross. As the disciples hide away and the women go to prepare his body…
I wonder, when would I fall away? Would I encounter the Messiah in the morning and preparing dinner that night, the excitement of the morning forgotten? Would I grasp on to the hope and excitement and desire to learn more? Or would I commit to travel through this week by his side? Would I walk by his side as he teaches, and is anointed, and stand by him as he engages in debate with Pharisees and teachers? Will I walk with him through the story of betrayal, as one of his own that he has poured himself into turns him over to those that would kill him? As Maundy Thursday approaches, I have to ask, would I have betray my Messiah? Would I deny knowing him? Would I have cried out “cruicify him?” Or would I have been there, heartbroken and lost as the nails were driven into his hands?
We all have a decision to make this week. We all have to decide if this journey of discipleship is worth committing our lives to. We have to decide now, while excitement is still in the air… will we commit ourselves, our lives to this life of discipleship….
(You are loved either way.)
I’ve said this for weeks now, I will say it again…
There is nothing you can do to earn God’s love. God knows your strengths, your weaknesses, your hopes, your fears. God sees the depths of your shame and loves you. All of you. Every bit and part and thought, you are loved.
There is nothing you can do to earn God’s forgiveness. You already have it. God is a God that understands how broken we are. God understands pain, and betrayal, bad choices… God holds none of it against you… you are already forgiven.
There is nothing you can do to earn your way into heaven. You are already invited to the great Heavenly Banquet. You are already invited to the life, so abundant, so full, so eternal…
Tellmewithouttellingme – are you part of the crowd? Or one of the disciples?
Tell me you are a disciple without telling me you’re a disciple… tell me that you walk with Jesus, through the days of celebration and hope, and through the dark moments of this journey of faith. Tell me you’re a disciple without telling me you’re a disciple… tell me that when faith gets hard or confusing, that you have practices in your life that hold you up… prayer, and worship, reading scripture, giving, serving, and sharing your story.
As I remember standing on the Mount of Olives, looking at the ancient temple, hearing the voices through the years crying out Hosanna, and the voices of anger and fear crying crucify him… In that place where time is so thin that the ancient and the present are so close they touch… I can almost feel Jesus standing there with me, looking out through time and space…
I can see with him through so much time….right into the hurt and pain of this world. Another shooting. More pain. More fear. Unspeakable pain brought to the lives of so many. Grocery shopping no longer safe… I can feel his heart break, I can hear his words, “please take this cup from me,”, I can see him hanging on the cross… I can feel his invitation… come with me. Come with me, let’s show this world the depth of God’s love for them…
Tell me you’re a disciple without telling me you’re a disciple…