Torn in Two

by | Mar 25, 2024 | Sermons | 0 comments

March 24, 2024

Scripture Reading: Mark 11:1-2, 7-10
Mark 15:33-34, 37-39

This Triumphal Entry is an invitation to a party! I doubt that any of those people who gathered around Jesus on that donkey thought very hard or long about it. Here is their hero, the champion of the common person, a great teacher riding into town on a donkey! It’s what famous people did! (I suppose it’s like a caravan escorting a movie star to a gala event – limousines, splashy attire, escorts etc.!) So, you look for a place near the front of where the celebrity is going to pass. You pick up
something to wave and you shout out a greeting! Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest! It means: “Hurray! Alleluia! and even Save us! You are our champion!” It’s a time to feel a part of something that is big and fun. A time to celebrate and let your hair down a bit! Get into the spirit of the moment! Sing! Dance!

You know the appeal of these sorts of moments! The details from 1st Century Jerusalem were different from the 21st Century, but the feeling, the emotions are the same.

That crowd had reason to celebrate this leader, teacher, and Godly man! He had loved them, healed them, loved their children, stood up for them, and taught them. He was their friend and he had shown them God! Why wouldn’t they celebrate! They had plans for him! There was noise that he was the Messiah – the one Jewish people had waited for generations! They desperately needed a strong leader who just might take on the Roman occupiers and deliver them. This is the man of the hour! This is God’s anointed one! Come join us! This is the party of our lifetime! Hosanna!

The urge to join in where people are praising God is so understandable! Why wouldn’t we? Life is so stifling sometimes! Problems, Bad news, tragedy! We need a break! Speaking of getting a break, consider this: Mary Ann’s progress, Glenn, John, Easter breakfast, Seder Celebration, Spring is here, Easter’s coming!

SUFFERING

There is something else besides celebrating going on these days. It’s not just party time in Jerusalem. It is a tragedy too! This same rock-star Messiah we celebrated and honored as a King or maybe a General has undergone a fraudulent accusation, a trumped-up trial, and is now headed toward the hill just outside of town with two other criminal types where all three will undergo the most brutal and excruciating death human beings have ever contrived!

Our hopes and our praises are crushed and in their place there is fear. Not only is our friend and teacher dying in agony, so are our hopes for deliverance dying with him. And, it would be just like these Roman soldiers to turn on any of the Jesus-sympathizers and a mass extermination could start right before our eyes. We could be dying today! Our lives have been crushed in a moment! WE HAD HOPED… BUT HOPE IS GONE!

Now isn’t this just like life? Unbounded joy can turn tragically to loss, sorrow and fear in a split second! Our tears of joy can change to tears of the deepest sorrow in a moment! What did we do wrong? Have we been such poor disciples? Or… are we so blind and stupid that we missed something all along? Did we miss something when Jesus was riding into Jerusalem? Yes, I think we did, but God is not punishing us for our inability to see what God sees. Our celebration may have been short-sighted, but not mistaken! Jesus deserved our praise and we were just giving voice to joy in our hearts! Surely God is not unhappy with that!

What we may be invited to see as God sees is this: There is a crimson thread running through both our celebration and our sorrow. It is a crimson thread reminding us that God is in our midst – in the midst of celebration and tragedy. God is about something here. God is at work in it all. Love is not absent even though it seems to be in hiding!

We had hoped… but like humans of all generations, we can only see what we can see. We totally missed something last week when Jesus came into Jerusalem. What we thought was the beginning of a new day for our Jewish people with Jesus on some sort of throne, was apparently not at all what God had in mind! We got caught up in the emotion of the moment and totally missed something enormously important that it now appears that Jesus has been in on from the start!

What we 21st Century followers know that those 1st Century followers could never have known is this: NONE OF IT – not the exuberant, misguided celebration – not the hope-extinguishing death and tragedy COULD FOIL EVEN FOR A MINUTE THE CRIMSON THREAD OF A GOD WHO BRINGS LIFE OUT OF DEATH ALWAYS!

But, we forget. We give our lives over to all sorts of attractive distractions that keep us celebrating and partying and miss God’s continual dream for us. And… we as easily give up all hope and joy for despair when life’s most cruel realities hit us like a ton of bricks. We wallow in hopelessness as if it were our friend for the rest of our lives.

Both of those miss the point entirely. We weren’t altogether wrong when we shouted: “Blessed is the coming kingdom” of God! But it never was intended to be a kingdom of earthly domination and power. We weren’t altogether wrong when we cried with Jesus “My God, my God, why have you forsaken us!” But the truth is: God never forsook us even up to and including the tomb.

What God was about was what next Sunday is about! Bringing life out of death! Bringing us through our misguided celebrations and our mistaken despair into new light and life through Jesus Christ. Praise God! Hosanna in the Highest! Amen.

Pastor Don Crist