Below is my sermon from Palm/Passion Sunday 2018. Because the Gospel reading is so long (Mark 14:1-15:47), the sermon is short! Let me know what you think.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
I was disappointed yesterday that I didn’t get to go to one of the March for Our Lives events. If you aren’t familiar with the movement, this march was organized by survivors of school shooting in Parkland, Florida. High school students from around the country have rallied together, because they are tired of being scared to go to school. Whether you think you would agree with them or not, I highly recommend you see some of the videos of these young people’s speeches.
Whenever there is a march—a political march, a parade through town, a procession—it’s asking for our attention. It’s asking that we take notice. There were two processions, two marches, that entered Jerusalem on a spring day almost two thousand years ago. From the east, Jesus rode in on a donkey, cheered by his followers and the crowds. People crying out, “Hosanna! Save us!” From the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor entered Jerusalem at the head of column of imperial cavalry and soldiers.
Jesus’ procession proclaims the kingdom of God; Pilate’s the power of the empire. Here we have the central conflict of the week that leads to Jesus’ crucifixion. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory, and violence of the empire that ruled the known world. Jesus’ procession embodied an alternative vision, the kingdom of God. He comes, not in power, or might, but riding on the back of a borrowed donkey. There is no fanfare, just the shouts of peasants, weeds cut from the side of the road spread in his path.
The kingdom that Jesus proclaims flies in the face of power, of all earthly principles and authorities. It says that the poor have value, that outsiders have value, that the sick and the despised are blessed by God. Here is a king who does not seek power, who refuses to engage in violence. Here is a different kind of authority and power.
No wonder the cries of “save us” all too quickly turn to cries of “crucify him.” It’s the same crowd, the same people, the same group of hopeful adorers who soon become hateful accusers. The great temptation of Palm Sunday is to think that were we there, we would have done differently. We wouldn’t have abandoned Jesus, or denied Jesus. We would have stayed until the end, as those few faithful women did. We would have known better.
But the thing is, the disciples did know better. Jesus told them, many times, where this was all headed. But they couldn’t understand, they didn’t want to understand. It was never going to end any other way. That much love, that much grace, that much God, in human form, was never going to be accepted by the powers of the empire, by the religious establishment, or by human hearts. We want a savior, not someone who suffers and dies.
If we were there, we would have done no different. For how often do we continue to crucify God today? In our words and thoughts and actions. When we despise the poor, when we celebrate violence, when we do not love our neighbor as ourselves?
And yet, even as we wait on Palm Sunday, on the very edge of Holy Week, we know that our actions, that our violence and anger and pain, are not the last word on this story. Because Jesus came to show another way—a way of love and compassion. And not just to show us this other way, but to make it possible for us to experience it, to have our broken hearts and lives bound up and made whole. Because in God’s kingdom, death never has the last word. The story does not end here. Amen.