Scripture Reading: Mark 11:1-11
Power is a strange thing. I don’t mean electricity, I’m talking about strength or control over something. Like a king over the people. Or a parent over a child.
Now, if you are a parent and are giggling right now, I’m with you.
A lot of times we might think we have power over someone, or control over a situation, but the reality is usually something else entirely.
Before we had kids, Bev and I were those kinds of people who showed up early. For everything. All the time. That doesn’t happen so much any more if we’re travelling as a family. Admittedly it’s easier now than it was when they were babies, where everything revolved around if they were awake, or hungry, or needed to be changed. But even today, sometimes it’s still a rush.
Power and control are things we wish we could have. Or at the very least, when we think we’ve got it, maybe it would last long enough to finish the job.
It’s no secret that I am a heavy user of technology, and we all know I used to work in the high-tech sector as an IT professional.
Back then most of my day would be working on someone’s machine who called to say they were having problems. 90% of the time I was able to connect to their machine remotely to look around and find the problems that needed to be fixed.
Because I was working remotely, sometimes the person who was experiencing the problem wasn’t aware I was working on the issue. So they would ultimately decide to try and fix it themselves.
What is the common refrain when our computers don’t work… “Did you try turning it off and back on again?”
Yeah, well that wasn’t very helpful when I would be working on a problem and then be disconnected while the person decided to take that advice from someone nearby in the office and reboot their computer.
Sure it might work often in our homes with our relatively simple Windows computers, but these were complex systems where a problem often was indicative of something requiring much more examination. A reboot without diagnosing the problem would not help at all.
So, my power, my control over the computer would be lost. Yes, it might solve the immediate problem to reboot, but it was temporary I could pretty much guarantee that the issue would rear it’s ugly head again sometime soon.
Sure enough it would. And of course the person on the other end at the computer would be even more bothered that I didn’t fix the problem in the first place. At that point I would usually quietly bang my head on my desk.
We like to think we have control, right? We like to think that we at least have some sort of power or authority once in a while. But it doesn’t take much to reveal how little of it we really have.
I had visions of getting things done this past week. I had a plan to do all sorts of productive things in planning ahead and preparing for various things.
Then the phone rang. Then it rang again. Now I’m not complaining about having to do funerals. I see funerals as a very important part of my ministry as I seek to help families grieve and celebrate the life of their loved one.
But it just goes to show me how little control I really have over my plans.
I know you all can relate.
With the desire for power, control and authority, where can we truly find it?
There truly only is one who has all of this. That one is of course, God.
And this week we celebrate God among us who has shown that he has this control and authority, no matter how much the world tries to deny it.
Today we see Jesus making his way into the city of Jerusalem. And this is an entry befitting someone who exhibits great power and authority.
The whole ceremony we see happening around Jesus as he comes is befitting the welcoming of a king or the general of a great army.
Jesus rides a colt into the city, something we see in the Old Testament as the sign of a great leader. Horses are used for battle and wars, never any other time. So the leader rode colts or donkeys while all others walked beside him.
And with the laying of leaves and branches and cloaks, it’s like laying out the red carpet we see at so many events now. People are receiving their hero, and are paying their respects and showing honour to him.
They are acknowledging his power and authority. Even if they aren’t truly aware of just what he is about to do.
There are some subtle differences in the account of Jesus entering Jerusalem compared to the other Gospels. In the Gospel of John, Jesus enters the city on a donkey and then does some teaching before going to the last supper with his disciples.
In Matthew and Luke, Jesus rides in on a colt and heads right to the temple and clears it out of all the troublemakers.
But in Mark, Jesus does go to the temple, but we’re told it’s late and no one is there. So he plays like a tourist and looks around before exiting the city again to spend the night in Bethany. In Mark Jesus keeps entering and leaving the city each day. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s an interesting thing.
I suppose that’s where he was invited to stay. We know he spent a lot of time in Bethany and had many friends there. So it would have made a good place to base himself in those final days before his arrest.
The next day, Jesus comes back into the city and heads for the temple. This time he clears it out. He chases out the money changers and challenges the priests and scribes.
Jesus is showing his power and authority, and it is scaring the religious leaders in the community. It’s scaring them because it’s not what they have been teaching. They have been teaching about the importance of following rules and laws, some of which they themselves have been ignoring.
Jesus has come to teach about love and relationships. In doing this he has been taking away the power and authority of those who are religious leaders. The people are starting to believe in this relationship stuff Jesus is talking about, and it threatens them. So in their greed and pride, they have decided to eliminate the challenge to their power and authority.
They seek to take the power away from Jesus.
Isn’t that what we’re taught? If someone is trying to take away our power we need to take away their’s?
Wouldn’t that be your response? If someone seeks to show they are better than you, wouldn’t you want to try and diminish them in the eyes of others? Ok, so we wouldn’t go so far as killing them, but wouldn’t we try to find some weakness we could exploit?
Look at any election in North America in the last 10 years, it’s a very popular approach now for those who want positions of power.
Here’s the problem.
We actually don’t have any power or authority.
It’s a myth.
There is only one who has true power and authority in the world today.
That one is Jesus, God’s Son.
Everything else is an illusion.
Our governments may think they have power and authority, but just ask the losers of recent elections if that was indeed the truth. Ask Stephen Harper. Ask Darrel Dexter. They thought they had power and authority over the areas in which they held offices.
But who ultimately had the power over them? We did. The majority of voters didn’t like their approaches to exercising that power and we tossed them out.
Just because you have a nice office with lots of staff and decision making powers does not make you the start and the end of all authority.
So when the religious authorities tried to remove the power and authority Jesus held by arresting him and killing him, did they?
To answer this question, let’s look at what happens in the passion narrative of the final hours of his life.
At the end of Mark chapter 11 the religious leaders come and challenge Jesus in the temple. It says,
As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” (Mark 11: 27-33)
Their attempt to regain their power failed. Jesus held it firmly. And there was nothing they could do.
When Jesus was sitting with his disciples at the last supper, Judas had already had it planted in his heart to betray Jesus and help arrest him.
As they sat around the table, we read in Mark 14,
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” (Mark 14:18-21)
Jesus knew what was going to happen. He knew Judas was going to betray him, yet he still ate with him. He not only ate with Judas, but he served him and he shared with him at the institution of the Lord’s supper. Jesus broke the bread and shared the wine with him.
When Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, the disciples were ready to fight for Jesus, yet Jesus would not allow it. He would not allow his friends to fight for him, and potentially help him escape. Instead, Jesus peacefully allowed himself to be taken. He knew what had to be done.
And if you look at the various interrogations Jesus faced by the priests all he had to do was say he was wrong and we would have been set free. But he refused, he stood by his claims as the Messiah. He held onto his power, to the great frustration of those who sought to condemn him.
And the same goes for when he stood before Pilate, the representative of the Roman empire. In Mark 15 we read,
Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. (Mark 15:2-5)
Again, all Jesus had to do was say he was wrong. He just had to say he wasn’t the King of the Jews. But he wouldn’t. He couldn’t!
All throughout his passion, Jesus never relinquished his power or his control. He stood by his claims. He stood by everything he had taught.
Why? Because it was all part of the plan.
The religious leaders may have thought they had power and authority once they had Jesus arrested, but it was quite the opposite. Jesus still had the upper hand.
He knew this. He knew he was going to die, yet he also knew it had to happen in this way.
It had to happen because the true power and authority of God was still to be fully revealed. Not on the cross, but in the empty tomb.
When Jesus died on the cross, the people thought they had finally won. They thought it was all over and they could go on just the way things had always been. After all, the threat was eliminated, right?
Nope. Not at all. This wasn’t their victory at all, in any way, shape or form.
It was but the next step in the complete victory of God.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Imagine their surprise when they heard he was gone! And then when the rumours began to swirl as people began to see him!
The world was forever changed all because Jesus has the ultimate power and authority in the world. Nothing else can come close, no matter what we perceive or believe about our own efforts.
So yes, it is right to celebrate the return of Jesus to the city of Jerusalem as he comes to do what he needs to do so that we may know his complete power and authority over the world his Father created.
And so we sing the great refrain with those who lined the streets as he entered the city of Jerusalem. Hailed as the returning hero to the city. And he is, but not as the people expected.
They expected a political revolution, but what came instead was a spiritual one.
So yes, we sing with those who cheered his return, because we know what came next for him, and we live in the hope of the empty tomb.
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!”
The Lord of all the world, all power and glory is his, and nothing else can ever compare to him, and what he has done for us.
May we know his power and love in all our lives, as we seek to humble ourselves before the king of all creation.
He who rules over all, including my life and your’s.
Our Lord, our Saviour.
Our life-giving redeemer.
He did all of this for all of us.
Thank you Lord Jesus.
Amen and amen.