•Isaiah 50:4-7 • Philippians 2:6-11 • Mark 11:1-10•
Scripture Readings: Palm Sunday
Today we begin our annual recall of the events associated with the final days of Jesus’ earthly life. These events form the basis of our Christian faith and identity. We contemplate the suffering and death of Jesus as prelude to that which is most significant – Easter. Mark is our guide.
According to Mark, the life and work of Jesus were rooted in his genuine experience of that hidden ground of love at the very center of our being, that Gracious Mystery we name God. The experience awakened in him a passion for “the kingdom of God” – “God’s new reality” of justice and peace.
Mark tells us Jesus was in Jerusalem for the mid-winter festival of Dedication. During the festival he was harassed. Emotions were so intense that some of “the Jews took up rocks to stone him.” Others “tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.” Then before returning to Galilee, he and his companions “went across the Jordan.” Many followed him. While there he received a message from Bethany about the death of Lazarus. You know that story well. From that Lazarus-moment on, the situation deteriorated. As word about Lazarus spread, the chief priests and the Pharisees began planning to kill Jesus. So he and his companions stepped out of public view, disappearing “into a region near the wilderness.”
Then as spring emerged in the hills of Galilee, people were preparing to go up to Jerusalem for the great feast of Passover. Although Jesus and his companions heard the chief priests and Pharisees were still looking to arrest him, they joined the pilgrims on their journey to the holy city Jerusalem. Jesus was not naïve and certainly was not contemplating suicide. Along the way they stopped in Bethany to visit Lazarus and his sisters. Mark records that touching scene during a meal when Mary “anointed his feet, and wiped them with her hair.” In Jerusalem rumors of his coming were rampant. Pilgrims left the city and went out to Bethany. That made the situation so intense “the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death.”
After Mary washed his feet, Jesus continued on to Jerusalem. We all know the rest of the story but we have no way to know what he was thinking or feeling! We do not know what impelled him to make the trip! We simply presume he saw an opportune moment to continue his work, and proclaim “the reign of God” in Jerusalem as he had been doing in Galilee.
As they went up to Jerusalem he was riding a donkey. His peers recognized that as a symbolic act, just as riding on a war stallion was a symbolic act for Pontius Pilate. Jesus was continuing his work — proclaiming “the kingdom of God.” He was announcing, “God’s new reality” of justice and peace was emerging and would replace the violence and injustice of the empire.
A reaction was inevitable. If his passion for “the kingdom of God” meant the possibility of retribution from the empire, he was willing to accept that.” He would not avoid conflict. Injustice and violence oppress people and for him “God’s new reality” was the alternative. Entering Jerusalem on a donkey was spelled “c-o-n-f-r-o-n-t-r-a-t-i-o-n.
The events recalled this week form the basis of our Christian identity and faith. Slow down, contemplate these events, and renew your fidelity to that hidden ground of love at the center of your being. We see in Jesus of Nazareth that a genuine experience of the incredible love of that Gracious Mystery we name God is transformative. All love is transformative!
Our current state legislature has not yet responded to the uninsured health needs of Montana’s poor. To transform the minds and hearts of our legislators with love is an enormous task. Remember that love is transformative. Please determine what you can and will do with love. The example of Jesus and the events of this week make it clear. The hidden ground of love at the center of our being compels us to do something for our peers who lack the sort of health insurance most of us enjoy.