Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Notes for the Message Based on Mark 11:1-11; “B” — Palm Sunday

Liturgy of the Palms Readings: Mark 11:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Liturgy of the Passion: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1 – 15:47

Liturgical Color: Purple or Red

 

I often wonder, “What was it like to know Jesus?”

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Today is Palm Sunday and traditionally we are invited to contemplate what the story of his entry into Jerusalem means to us at the time and in the place that we live in. We just heard this story and in our imaginations we see Jesus riding on a donkey, surrounded by happy people waiving palm branches and uttering friendly cries of admiration.

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Often the stuff that we know, OR THE STUFF THAT WE THINK we know, prevents us from learning new things or recognizing that something is happening.

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Let us unpack today’s Gospel Reading. Usually the population of Jerusalem was roughly 80,000 (that is counting everybody – men, women, children, slaves, gentiles). Around the festival of Passover so many people came to Jerusalem on pilgrimage that the population swelled to roughly 4,000,000 people.  [ Here is a link to a page that talks about population of Jerusalem @ the time of Jesus // Here is a link to n page that talks about the Temple Culture around Passover Festival at the time of Jesus]

I want to drive this point home. For every human being living in Jerusalem, there were 50 pilgrims coming to bring their tithes, to worship, to purify themselves and get in touch with God.

It is a lot of latrines. It is a lot of closeness. It is a huge stress on supply lines — people needed food and wine (wine to purify drinking water). During the Passover, the laws of supply and demand drove commodity prices sky high prompting Jesus to get angry about the high prices at the Temple.

The city was crowded. Just like in any crowd, emotions ran hot; differences of opinion flared resulting in high tension between different groups of people.

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In our minds we see Jesus entering the City and the whole city flocking to welcome him. The reality is that not that many people knew Jesus or even heard about Him. Most of his earthly ministry happened in Galilee; Jerusalem was packed with Jews, pagans and sympathizers from all over the world. Most pilgrims had no clue as to who Jesus was or what was happening and why they should make an effort to welcome Him.

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In our minds we see people on the streets waving palms and crying “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Although over the last 2000 years, “Hosanna!” became an exclamation of praise, we know that in first century Judea “Hosanna!” meant “Save Us!” In our minds the people who were greeting Jesus were asking him to give them eternal salvation. Unfortunately the reality is that prior to the Crucifixion and Resurrection, even Jesus’ disciples thought that Jesus came to bring political and temporal freedom, not spiritual, emotional and eternal salvation. That makes me wonder: what did the people who were waving palm branches ask Jesus to save them from?

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I am not trying to rain on Jesus’ parade. My job is to challenge ALL OF US TO THINK.

Jesus entered Jerusalem during an emotionally charged time leading to Passover, when tempers flared and fuses were short. People were anxious; emotions ran hot and more often than not, unsettled feelings resulted in violence.

Anxious people like quick fixes because when we are anxious we want our anxiety to go away. That is why there are so many advertisements promising us regularity, pain free living and general health and wealth if only we follow an advertised “plan” or use their product.

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To summarize, Jerusalem was bursting with anxiety and tension when Jesus entered. On one hand, the pilgrims demanded political and temporal freedom and they were ready to revolt at a moment’s notice. On the other hand, Jerusalem was occupied by a Roman garrison invested in keeping civil unrest to a minimum. That anxiety and tension provided an ideal atmosphere for demagoguery and casuistic argumentation that we will see at Jesus’ trial on the night before He was crucified.

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The whole life and ministry of Jesus teaches us that it is not about quick fixes. The example that Jesus set before us teaches us that life is something that we do together. For our lives to have meaning, we need to belong to a community; to be united behind common vision; to be working towards common goals.

The way his life ended teaches us that when we allow tension and anxiety to get the better of us, we make wrong decisions and the fabric of our community suffers.

Jesus entered Jerusalem knowing that He is entering an emotionally charged environment. Jesus entered Jerusalem knowing that He is going to die there.

To paraphrase: Jesus died because we live in a fallen world. And because we live in a fallen world, we get anxious, and angry and frustrated, and sometimes our expectations are not met, and sometimes we learn that something that we really want is not going to happen (at least not yet) and it is in those moments that we make wrong decisions, it is in those moments that we make mistakes and do things we are not proud of. And that is why, before leaving this earth, Jesus gave us the sacrament of the Holy Communion. We celebrate the sacrament to remind ourselves that life is something that we do together. It is a reminder that when we make wrong choices, God’s grace is still with us and we are the instruments of that Grace. We celebrate the sacrament to remind ourselves that life goes on and it is our task to learn from our experiences, to pick ourselves up once in a while, and to become better persons and better communities in the process.

{Transition to Holy Communion}

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