Mark 11:1-11; 14:3-9

(sermon note: 03-24 sermon note)

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

This morning reminds me of the one about a doctor, a lawyer, a pastor, and a young boy who were on a plane when it suddenly hit some turbulence, lost power to one of its engines, and began to fall from the sky. Alas, there were only three parachutes between the four of them. The doctor looked to the three and said, “Well, I’m a doctor and I specialize in medicine and saving lives so I think I should live.” The others agreed and the doctor took the first parachute and jumped out. Then the lawyer said, “Well, I’m a really smart guy, basically a genius, so I think I should live too.” So he grabbed the second parachute and jumped out. Now it’s the last parachute between the pastor and the little boy. The pastor looked at the boy and said, “You know what, my child, take the parachute. The good lord has blessed me my whole life and you still have your whole life ahead of you so save yourself and take the last parachute.” The little boy responded, “No, it’s all right.” The priest asked “Oh yeah? How so?” And the boy replied, “Because the genius just jumped out with my backpack!”

Genius or not, that lawyer sure acted pretty selfishly by grabbing what he thought was a parachute without agreement from the other two. I know both doctors and lawyers are in the business of saving lives but it’s hard to feel sorry for that lawyer for greedily looking out for himself in a crisis. Believe it or not, us pastors are in the same business of saving lives too and are equally deserving of salvation, perhaps even more so. After all, that pastor was willing to die for that little boy, something that doctor and lawyer weren’t willing to do. I guess it shows how much sacrifice is expected of each of the three professions…

Indeed, this whole Jesus “profession” is built on the expectation of being willing to sacrifice our very lives for the sake of the lives of others. Us pastors take our cue from the one who sacrificed his life for the lives of all of us. Yes, we’re called to save lives just as doctors and lawyers are called to but we have the added expectation being willing to give up our lives in order to fulfill that calling. Truly a noble profession, indeed, and an honor to serve in! But I didn’t lift up that joke to simply give praise to pastors. No, it parallels similar behavior and thought in our reading for today.

Except for Jesus and his disciples, it seemed like everyone was in a dire situation, clamoring for salvation. The crowds of people were crying out, “Hosanna! Hosanna!”…”Save us! Save us!” All too often we consider this encounter between Jesus and the people of Jerusalem as a celebratory occasion. On the one hand, it is celebratory because Jesus did save them and all of us but not before this event. The people were anxious and panicky, oppressed and downtrodden. It wasn’t a joyful event by any means. The crowds of people were living in fear of their leaders both religious and non-religious. They desperately needed to be saved and Jesus seemed to be their last hope. And ironically the religious and non-religious leaders were ALSO anxious and panicky, in desperate need of salvation as well. From what? From Jesus himself and the threat he posed to their leadership. EVERYONE was anxious and panicky! And yet Jesus calmly rode that colt into the midst of it all. By week’s end Jesus will have saved them all…and US!

But no one knew it at the time. They were all desperately grabbing for the only parachutes onboard a crashing airplane. And amid it all was one person willing to give up his life for the sake of all those around him. Jesus saw how desperate they all were, how hopeless, how lost and he graciously gave them hope and guidance and life by giving up his life. Not a small sacrifice to give up one’s life for the life of another! No, it’s a pretty awesome sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf! It’s no wonder that we dedicate an entire season of the year to reflect on his sacrifice. Jesus gave his life for you and me! Why? So that we might live, truly live, live without fear and desperation.

The crowds at the gates of Jerusalem cried for their salvation but probably didn’t expect it come in the form of Jesus’ death. No, they simply wanted to be freed from the oppression of their leaders. But our leaders aren’t the true oppressors. Sin and fear and doubt are the true oppressors in this world. Jesus didn’t come to free us from our leaders. Jesus came to free us from OURSELVES! He came to give us life without sin and fear and doubt! Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Friends, he IS the way and the truth and the life! Our salvation rests in him and him alone. We will always have leaders, some good and some bad, but our salvation doesn’t rely on them. Our true salvation relies on Jesus and our belief in him. Remember when Paul and Silas were jailed in Philippi and a miraculous earthquake freed them. The jailer was afraid for his life and anxiously asked Paul and Silas what he needed to be saved. They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) Sure, the jailer was simply asking for salvation from his angry boss for the escape of Paul and Silas but received a far greater salvation by believing in Christ.

We ALL receive a far greater salvation than what we ask for or expect. Both the crowds and the leaders of Jerusalem received it, so too do we receive it. Jesus said, “for the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (19:10) We’re ALL lost without him! Thanks be to God for having found us and saved us! Let us rejoice in his most gracious gift in the week ahead. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.