Palm Sunday – March 25, 2018 Mark 11:1-11
Sermon by Rev. Dr. Rolf Svanoe
How many of you saw the news reports yesterday of the March for Our Lives events that happened all over the country? We watched TV coverage of the events in Washington, DC. There were over 800 marches all across the country. In Washington, almost all the speakers were high school students, many of them from Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida. These young students have sparked a nationwide movement for sensible gun control laws. They were articulate and passionate. They were so inspiring as they exercised their first amendment rights. What was remarkable is that these protests were non-violent. We heard again and again that love is stronger than hatred, and that the universe bends toward justice. These students were demanding justice and the right to live their lives and go to school without fear. We also heard that this movement had just begun. These students were in it for the long haul. This was just the start of the marathon. They weren’t going anywhere until laws were changed.
I’ve seen other marches in the news recently. North Korea has a parade where you can see thousands of soldiers marching in high step with the rifles and bayonets. Tanks and trucks haul huge missiles. A march like that represents some of the things that country values- displays of military strength and power. Marches like that say a lot about a country and what it values.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, it was a march- a march on Jerusalem. It was a march to change the hearts of people and the heart of a nation. Scholars say that two marches happened that day in Jerusalem, and they stand in stark contrast to each other. On the west side was a march of 1,000 Roman soldiers coming into town from the west coast. Pontius Pilate led them in procession riding on a mighty white horse. It was a display of strength meant to send a warning message as the local people got ready to celebrate the Passover, their independence holiday. Any uprising would be met with swift and brutal retaliation.
On the east side of Jerusalem there was another march. Jesus and his disciples were coming to town. News of Jesus preceded him. People were anxious to see him and expectations were high. They lined the streets to see him. They waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna!” which actually means “Save us!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna to the Son of David.” They wanted a king like David, someone to free them from the Romans and restore Israel’s glory. But Jesus chose to enter the city a different way. He didn’t enter riding on a mighty stallion with a show of military strength. He came riding on a donkey. A donkey is not an instrument of war. It is a beast of burden. This was a very different march than the one Roman army had, and it sent a very different message. Jesus came to save them, but not from the enemy they expected.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day, he didn’t come to meet the people’s wants or expectations. He came to meet their needs. He knew that the real enemy was not the Romans, but our sin. You can’t win peace and freedom with hatred and violence. You can’t make a better world through military power. Peace and freedom only comes through love and forgiveness. And that is what Jesus came to bring us- God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. He came to free us from the power of sin, guilt and shame. He came to heal us deep within. He came to invite us to a different way of life, not life with our selfish desires at the center, but a life with Jesus at the center. Life works better that way. Our communities work better that way. Our marriages and families work better that way. All our relationships work better that way when God’s unconditional love and forgiveness is at the center of our lives. That is where we find true freedom, peace and joy- in following Jesus Christ.
Jesus marched on Jerusalem that day. He came to challenge the powers of this world. His weapons weren’t a horse and sword, but a humble donkey. In fact, he told Peter to put away his sword. Jesus weapons were love and forgiveness. He challenged the powers with truth and justice, and they killed him for it. And Jesus forgave them. And what did God say about it? God said “yes” to Jesus by raising him from the dead. And now Jesus invites us to march with him, to walk in his way, to renounce violence and embrace the power of forgiveness, to share the good news of God’s love and forgiveness with everyone.
Today, in 2018, we know what Jesus came to do. And we know how this story ends. It doesn’t end on Good Friday with Jesus’ crucifixion. It only just begins on Easter Sunday when God raised Jesus from the dead. So let’s march with Jesus. Let’s march around the block waving our palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!” Let’s march to say that God’s love is stronger than human hatred; goodness is stronger than evil; and life is stronger than death.
Palm Sunday – March 25, 2018 Mark 11:1-11