First Lesson: Zechariah 9:9-10
Second Lesson: Philippians 2:5-11
Gospel Lesson: Mark 11:1-10
Sermon Text: Mark 11:1-10
If you haven’t joined us for any of our Wednesday Lent services, you need to know how we’ve approached things this year. Since Ash Wednesday and Easter are on holidays (Valentine’s/April Fool’s Day), the plan was to take a different holiday each time and see how it ties into Jesus’ passion. The last few weeks some parents told me their children have tried to guess which holiday we will be looking at next. Today, I’ll let you take a stab at it. You heard our text – the account of Jesus marching in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. What holiday correlates with that? Guesses? Some hints… end of November and the holidays of Fs (family, food, football). What is it? Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving, many of us go around the table and each person says something for which they are thankful. Well, as we look at our lesson from Mark, for what should we be thankful? What does our Savior all do here that makes him worthy of our thanks?
#1: We are thankful Jesus knows exactly what needs to happen. In preparation for his march into the city, he sends 2 disciples ahead to get him a means of transport. He tells them what they’ll find – an unbridled, untrained colt tied up. He also tells them what to say if anyone questions them. They head off to town, and things are exactly as he said they’d be. The colt, just as described, was there, and people indeed did question them. They respond as they are told and head back.
Lucky guess, right? Of course not. Time and again in the Gospels Jesus showed he knows what is going on. He could read the hearts of the Pharisees. He knew the marital history of the woman at the well. He knew Nathaniel the disciple before he even met him. Not long after our text, Peter says of Jesus, “Lord, you know all things.” And Jesus knew the prophecy that the king would enter Jerusalem on, as Zechariah said, a “colt, the foal of a donkey.” This was the way it had to be. Jesus knew exactly what would happen and what needed to happen. Isn’t that a reason to be thankful?
That by itself is a happy thought. But a price comes with knowing all things. We all wonder about our futures – where we will go to school, what kind of job we will have, whom we will marry, how many kids we will have, etc. Knowing that stuff in advance likely wouldn’t be that bad of a thing. But imagine knowing what illnesses you will face and when. Imagine knowing on what day you will die. Imagine knowing in what way you will die. That would be horrible, wouldn’t it? For the death day thing, each day you would wake and say, “I have 2,432 days left.” And each day likely would fly by faster than we can imagine. In some ways knowing all things would be nice. In other ways, it would be horrific and depressing.
Jesus knew where that colt would be. He knew he had to fulfill that old prophecy. But he also knew what was going to happen in Jerusalem. He wasn’t shy about telling that to the disciples. Time and again he’d say, “I am going to Jerusalem. I’ll be captured by religious leaders. They’ll try me, convict me, and put me to death.” Usually the disciples’ response was one of three things. They were clueless as to what he was talking about, they ignored it, or they tried to dissuade him. But, of course, he’d not be dissuaded. He knew what he had to do, what had to happen. And that is exactly what he did. When they came back with the colt, Jesus mounted it. And what did he do? He marched right into the city where he would die.
Isn’t that another reason to celebrate Thanksgiving today? A few years ago, Lori wanted a Diet Coke from McDonald’s. No problem, I thought. I can be there and back in less than 10 minutes. That was not the case. I sat in the drive-thru for 12 minutes before even ordering. Why didn’t I go inside? No clue. After I ordered I waited another 10 minutes to get to the pay window. I got there and sat for 7 minutes. Then things got crazy. I noticed a problem at the delivery window. People in a minivan were yelling at workers inside the window. It was quite heated. This went on for a 5/6 minutes. Finally someone came to the pay window, took my money, and said they would get my Diet Coke. A minute later, someone got out of the minivan and was pounding on the delivery window. A worker ran up to me and said, “Shut your windows and stay in your car!” Five more minutes of craziness, and I thought, “Forget this. I’m going to Burger King.” As I pulled out of the line, I heard Police sirens. Never did find out the issue. This whole thing took over ½ hour. A half an hour for a Diet Coke.
If I had known that would happen, there is no way I would have gone. The price for going was 30 minutes of my life I will never get back. Well, Jesus knowing all things meant he knew he would enter Jerusalem to die. And it would just be a normal, simple, or a painless death. It would be (arguably) the most excruciating death man has ever devised. Oddly, the root for the word excruciating is the word cross. I would’ve hesitated going if I knew a fast food trip would take 30 minutes. You might hesitate travelling if you know a traffic jam might shut you down for 45 minutes. Jesus knew that in going to Jerusalem he was going to his death. But he did not hesitate. Not for a second. Again, isn’t that reason to give thanks?
One more. Though he was riding in to die, the mood among the people was celebratory. Likely many thought he was going to be a political king and get rid of the hated Romans. Why they shouted isn’t out focus. What they shouted is. They cried out a few things. 1) “Hosanna!” Probably the simplest definition of that word is “save us.” 2) “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” If you were with us on the Lenten Wednesday when we celebrated Father’s Day, you will remember that Jesus was all about doing his Father’s will. Entering that city, he truly did come in the name of his Father, in the name of the Lord. And 3) “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” Prophecy after prophecy said that one from David’s line would be the most glorious king the people have ever known.
So how does this lead us to celebrate Thanksgiving? Because everything the people said about Jesus was true. To say, “Hosanna! Save us!” was perfectly fitting. Jesus name means Savior. And that is why he was entering the city – to die, to pay the price for sin, to save us. To call Jesus the Blessed One is also perfectly fitting. He was the one sent to do a job only he could do, a job his Father wanted him to do – restore the relationship between God and sinners. And to call him a king is, yes, perfectly fitting as well. After completing his work, Jesus ascended. And now he, our glorious king, rules all things for the good of his people, and will in time bring his citizens, us, into his eternal kingdom. That all the things the people said are true, isn’t that one more reason to give thanks?
Today is the start of Holy Week. Emotionally speaking, it is the toughest week of the year for us. Easily we could approach this week with dread. Good Friday is 5 days away, and in a way more so than any other time we are in this place, we will be hit smack dab in the face with the reality that what he endured on that cross is because of us and our sin. We could approach this week as too many approach the Thanksgiving holiday – just another day – no big deal. And since most everyone here has heard the Palm Sunday account before, we could adopt a “been hearing this for years now” attitude.
But what I want you to take away from this is the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving this week. Thank your Savior that he always knows what needs to be done. He knew it on Palm Sunday, and he knows it now. Every need you have, be it physical, spiritual, emotional, or whatever, is known by your Savior. As the hymn says, “[He] knows my needs and well supplies me. Thank your Savior that even though he knew what awaited him in Jerusalem, still he went. That speaks to his love. Then and now, nothing will stop him from showing the purest form of love the world has ever known to you every day of your life. And thank your Savior for who he is. He is the one who saves. He is the most blessed one. And he is the king who rules in the world, rules in our hearts, and will continue ruling for all eternity. If all that is not worthy of giving thanks, I don’t know what is. To complete that thought, let’s sing a hymn – vs. 3 of hymn 615 (“We Thank You for Your Blessings”). May God bless you as you celebrate Thanksgiving this Holy Week. Amen.