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March 11th:A Triumphant Entry

Today we get another devotional from Ann Schwarm. When you read through a Gospel from start to finish the days unfortunately don't line up. We just get to be prepared for Palm Sunday before Palm Sunday.

 

 Scripture:  Mark 11:1-19


A Triumphant Entry

In today’s scripture passage, Palm Sunday comes early in our reading plan.  Jesus made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, entered the temple and looked around, then returned the next day to drive out the merchants and the  money changers.


            It was during Lent in the Spring of 2018 when we visited the Holy Land.  There is one image for which I need no picture.  It was a beautiful, crisp, clear morning.  We were standing at the top of the Mount of Olives, gazing down on modern-day Jerusalem.  I lifted my eyes to just above the horizon and for me the city faded away as I absorbed the thought that perhaps Jesus looked up to the sky as he prepared to ride down from the Mount.  Perhaps what he saw that day was just like what I was looking at in that moment.  I was overwhelmed and remember it still.  I believe I always will.


            But that first Palm Sunday started with several tasks faithfully fulfilled before Jesus’ triumphant entry.  Jesus sent a pair of disciples to secure his mount, giving direction regarding what they would find, where they would find it and what to say when asked.  If I’d been assigned this job, I might have resisted.  I don’t like to ask for favors.  Asking to take a donkey constitutes asking a big favor.  The disciples didn’t argue, offer alternatives, or even ask why?  Faithfully, off they went to fulfill the mission, trusting that everything would be just as Jesus described, and of course, it was.  Bystanders did ask, “what are you doing?” and the disciples said what Jesus told them to say, “The Lord needs it.”  Notice, the bystanders asked “what” and not “why.”  When they heard who needed the donkey—the Lord—no more questions, no more discussion.  Many had seen Jesus or had at least heard of him and the miracles he had performed.  His reputation preceded him.  The donkey was untied, the donkey was delivered.


            In his book, The Final Week of Jesus, Max Lucado writes, “All of us have a donkey.  You and I each have something in our lives, which, if given back to God, could, like the donkey, move Jesus and his story further down the road.  Maybe you can sing or hug or program a computer or speak Swahili or write a check.  Whichever, that’s your donkey.  Whichever, your donkey belongs to him.” 


            Those questions the faithful didn’t ask in this situation? I sometimes ask.  I think that if I know the “why” of the request, it will make it possible for me to say “yes.”  When in truth, I know the “who” and that should be, must be, enough.  Knowing “the Lord needs it,” is all I, all any of us, need to know to fulfill the request for whatever purpose.  No arguing, no offering of alternatives, no questioning, just trusting. 


            At the conclusion of the triumphant entry, after hearing the chants of “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus went to the temple.  “After looking around at everything, he left….” (vs 11b.NLT).  We know what he saw because we know what he did.  What he saw were money changers and merchants, who in the name of religion, exploited true believers, the pilgrims, who came to see God and to worship him.  What Jesus did was overturn “the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves….” (vs 15).  He taught them, saying “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.  But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (vs 17). 


            In these short verses, Jesus teaches us that His Kingdom is not of this world as he entered triumphantly on the back of a donkey as the gentle and peaceable king and not on the back of a horse as a warring king.  The symbolism was intentional.  Next, Jesus chose his time to make a point.  Instead of reacting at the end of the day, he waits.  In full view of the masses, Jesus makes his point by upending the “big business” done in the name of religion and thus setting in motion the plots and plans of the “chief priests and the teachers of the law” who began looking for a way to kill him (vs. 18).  One commentator suggests that Jesus’ opponents were not seriously upset by his triumphant entry but considered it a direct “slap in the face” when Jesus called the temple “a den of robbers” and criticized their effectiveness as ministers of God.  They knew that they were losing their hold on the people and that threatened their positions, their power and their livelihood. 


            What do these two stories have in common?  Self!  When we choose our own path, when we hold too tightly to “our donkey” we do so out of self-interests.  We want control of our schedule, our resources, our time.  The merchants, money changers, chief priests and teachers of the law didn’t want the “‘good things’ they had going” upset.  Their self-interests took priority.  A cautionary tale, or two.


            Oh, and that cursed fig tree in verses 12-14?  Commentators agree that it is an acted-out parable for what was about to happen in the temple in verses 15-17.  Jesus saw a tree full of leaves which typically meant that fruit would be found.  Nothing!  The fig tree looked promising but produced no fruit.  Likewise, the religious leaders he encountered were spiritually barren and wrongly motivated.  Genuine faith will inevitably produce good deeds, good fruit.


Questions:

1.      Do you know your “donkey”?

2.     What part of this scripture reading resonates most for you and for your life?

3.     How will you let it change you?


Prayer:

Dear Lord, thank you for coming to save us from ourselves.  Help us see how we can serve you in big ways and in little ways.  Move aside our doubts and fears.   Thank you for never giving up on us.  Thank you for giving us chance after chance to get it right.  In your precious name, we pray.  Amen


While I don’t need a photo by which to remember that morning on the top of the Mount of Olives, I do have one.  Here it is!  As you gaze on this scene, please pray for all those impacted by the conflict in Israel and Palestine. 




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