366. (classroom) sermon on Mark 11:1-11
I wanna say right up front that the ending of this sermon is a cop out. There really isn’t an ending. I ran out of time and couldn’t close the deal.
It’s a narrative form sermon based on Mark 11:1-11. I wanted to experiment with a different kind of sermon, one that didn’t preach as much as tell. It was my first attempt at the form and it was both a lot more fun and a lot harder than I thought it would be – especially when it came time to come up with a good ending, which I failed to do. But our homiletics teacher pushes us to try new things and so I did.
1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2and 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. 3If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’
4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
11Then 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.
My name is Deborah.
I am one of the two disciples Jesus sent to fetch a colt for him. I went along with my friend Mary (no not that Mary… or that one either – Mary was a very common name in our time.)
You seem surprised that two women were sent. You shouldn’t be. Why do you think we were left unnamed by Mark?
But back to our story here.
We were walking on a road that took us between Bethany and Bethphage. We were going up the Mount of Olives and in the distance we were able to see Jerusalem. We were close.
And we weren’t the only ones.
This was Passover time. There were many people on these roads traveling towards Jerusalem. Some people make pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year. Most, at least once in their lifetime. These were crowded, busy roads we were on.
We bumped into all sorts along the way. Some had heard of Jesus and watched us with curiosity. Some of them wondered, “could he be the one?” Most people ignored us and our group – they had seen this before: a group of disciples traveling with their beloved rabbi.
So we’re getting near the top of Mount Olive and we stop.
Oh, I have to tell you a story here. Bartimaeus – the blind man Jesus had healed the other day? A character, that one. He yelled to get the attention of Jesus. Do you have any idea how loud you have to yell into a crowd to get that kind of attention? Well that kind of volume and tenacity is inbred – it’s part of who this guy is. If he was loud before being healed, he was even more so afterwards, always asking people, “What’s this? What’s that? What do you call this color again?” And again, no volume control.
So you can imagine the silence was conspicuous as we took this rest stop. And maybe this is why Jesus decided to stop.
Jesus comes up to Mary and I and says, “I have a job for you.”
Yeah, you’ll be perfect for this… and then he tells us the job.
“So you want us to go steal a colt?” Mary said.
“Well, stealing is kind of a heavy word…”
“But you’re asking us to walk into town, find a colt, untie it, and bring it back. What would you call that?”
“Call it… the new economy of the new kingdom. Come on, you know the owner will be in town for Passover, he’s not going to be needing it. We’ll have it back before he knew it was ever gone. And besides, we need it for that thing we’re doing tomorrow.”
And that’s true. We did need the colt for that thing.
You people, I hear you have a name for this kind of street art – a flash mob? That’s what we were doing. We had been getting ready for days, gathering branches and leaves. It was going to be something.
“So, will you do it?”
I looked at Mary and she looked at me as if you say, “it’s up to you.”
“Yeah, sure. We’re down,” I said.
Later that day, we go down to the village, spot a colt, start untying it. We thought we were going to get away clean but then just before we started making our way back to the group, out of nowhere, a small band of men appear. They stop us and one of them asks, “Where do you think you’re going with that colt?”
Mary and I look at one another and then I say, “The Lord needs it.”
The guy says, “the master needs a colt now? During Passover?”
He pauses for a moment, just staring at us, and then he says, “alright. I never do understand that guy. Sending some strangers all the way up from Jerusalem just to get this colt and I don’t even wanna know why he doesn’t bother to…”
The next day, our flash mob went off without a hitch. It was prophetic performance art at its best. And like any good work of art, it had multiple interpretations. Some saw it as a mockery of royal pomp and circumstance. Some saw it as a crazy Jewish cult doing some crazy, Jewish cultish thing. Some thought it was dangerous and warned us to cut it out – the Romans aren’t exactly known to hold a high appreciation for protest as performance.
Honestly, even we disciples didn’t all know exactly what it was all about. It was all of those interpretations and none of them, at least not entirely.
I thought about what Jesus said, justifying the taking of that colt he was riding on – “the new economy of the new kingdom.”
That’s a dangerous word to use – “kingdom.” Because for about a century now, Rome was the only kingdom people were allowed to speak about.
Of course we were sick of Rome. They mocked our God, stole from our temples, made us pay their taxes, worship their emperor.
But we also feared Rome. We all knew what they did to traitors.
But here we were, with Jesus, who refused to keep quiet about his kingdom. And we knew walking into Jerusalem meant kingdoms were going to clash. And nobody knew what would happen.
Well, one person did, but I don’t think anyone wanted to believe it.
But I heard.
Just before healing Bartimaeus, Jesus talked for the third time about his death. But Jesus was always saying strange things right? So most people figured he was speaking another parable that they couldn’t understand.
But I heard. I could see the way his face changed and how his voice lowered whenever he spoke about his death. It was small and subtle, but I could see it. He meant it. He knew what he was talking about.
By the time we finally made it into Jerusalem, just outside the temple. It was already dark. Really dark. The energy of the day had waned – the novelty of the flash mob had long since petered out. We rolled in quiet and the temple was empty.
Most people immediately turned around to find a place to sleep – some finding inns, some on the streets, some walking back outside the city to make camp. Me – I had to grab the colt to take back the next day.
And so I made my way up to Jesus. He was standing in the Court of the Gentiles. The twelve were off to the side making something to eat, talking amongst themselves.
“Rabbi, the colt…”
He had already dismounted. He was standing beside the colt looking out into the temple courtyard at all of these merchant tables. Something was stirring deep inside of him but I couldn’t tell exactly what.
He turned to me, looked into my eyes for a moment and then said, “you know don’t you? You know what’s going to happen here, why I’ve come.”
I nodded. I knew that he had come to subject himself to the powers at play – politics and religion. We both knew it would not end well.
He gave me the reigns of the colt and turned his attention back towards the temple.
As I made my way back to Mary, I took another look over my shoulder and saw Jesus, framed by the grand temple entrance. I saw him hang his head. His shoulders sagged. He looked so small then, the temple towering up above him.
A chill wind blew through the city. The colt shuddered.
I pulled my cloak around me a little bit tighter.
This was going to be a dark, cold night.