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Triumphal Return?

Triumphal Return?

Mark 1:1-11

Palm Sunday! We kick off Holy Week on a high note... we just read Mark’s account of what happened, so it’s all fresh on our mind, right? Jesus has made his way to Jerusalem, where there’s was parade being held in his honor! He’s riding into town on a borrowed colt.

It’s actually a march, a movement. We call it the Triumphal Entry. People are in front of and behind Jesus. They’re shouting “hosanna” or “save us” while covering the street with palm branches and their outer cloaks for him to ride on. In other words, they’re rolling out the red carpet. There’s excitement and anticipation in the air. This Jesus thing is really going somewhere. Something big is happening.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem... He enters the temple... He looks around at everything. And he leaves.

He does nothing. He says nothing. He just leaves. He goes back to Bethany. It’s a strange and anticlimactic ending to the triumphal entry. Makes you wonder: What is Mark getting at?

Because, if you’ve been a student of the Bible... you may know that anytime something strange takes place in God’s Word... anytime something seems a bit out of place... a bit odd... you can bet it was put there for a reason. And here, in Mark, this strange ending to such a joyful and welcomed event makes me think there has to be something significant going on here.

And, on top of that, it’s unique. Mark’s is the only one of the four gospels to describe this.

In Matthew (21:10-13) the whole city is in turmoil when Jesus enters. He goes to the temple and drives out those who are buying and selling. He overturns tables in the Temple. Matthew’s Jesus isn’t meek and mild... he has full intentions of shaking things up!

In Luke (19:40-46) Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and then enters the temple where he drives out those who were buying and selling.

And in John, (12:12-33) Jesus does not even go to the temple, Jesus enters the city and begins teaching.

Mark is the only gospel that says Jesus entered the temple, looked around, and left.

The question is, why? Why did Jesus leave the temple and go to back to Bethany?

Well, truth is, Mark actually tells us why. Jesus left the temple because “it was already late” (Mark 11:11).

Of course, that raises a question of its own, right? What does “late” mean? Was it just a matter of time? The sun was setting and it was time to get some rest? I mean, Bethany was a couple of miles away, and it was the home of some of Jesus’ closest friends who had fed and lodged Jesus at times during his ministry. Maybe it was just late, and Jesus and his disciples needed to rest!

But... what if Jesus was aware it was getting late, because he had something in mind that he needed to do?

What might Jesus be late for? I have an idea about that... but I need to you hang with me for a minute.

I think Jesus was concerned about the time, because he needed to return the colt (that he had borrowed) back to its owner. Here’s why I say that. There’s another unique aspect from Mark’s account of the triumphal entry that the other Gospels don’t give us. Mark is the only one to say that Jesus promised to return the borrowed colt to its owner. They all agree that the colt was either borrowed from its owner (Matthew 21:1-3; Mark 11:1-7; Luke 19:29-34) or found (John 12:19). But only Mark speaks about Jesus returning the colt.

In fact, when Jesus sent two disciples to borrow this colt, he told his disciples if anyone asked why they were taking the colt they were to say, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly ( immediately)” (Mark 11:3). And that’s what they did.

It was intentional... things like this don’t make it into scripture without a reason! And I think the reason Mark included this seemingly insignificant detail... is to remind us, 2000 years after the fact, that God always keeps his promises.

Jesus is the Messiah... and equal part of the Godhead... Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Which means, simply, that Jesus is God. And God’s word tells us plainly in multiple places in a plethora of ways (including 2 Cor. 1:19-20 and Joshua 23:14 and Numbers 23:19) that God always keeps his promises.

Of course, you and I, as followers of Christ, have been called to be the Children of God, and imitators of God. So, if God always keeps his promises... what does that say about us? We should do the same. Right?

Listen: When you boil it all down... and get to the heart of what’s going on here: I think Jesus’ returning the colt is a metaphor for us as we enter into and walk though this Holy Week?

How do you and I need to keep our promises? Maybe we need to take our church membership vows more seriously. Or our marriage vows? Maybe we need to work on the promise we made when our children were baptized, to “nurture them in Christ’s holy church, that by your teaching and example they may be guided to accept God’s grace for themselves...”

Or maybe we could look at Jesus’ action like this: What might returning the colt mean for us? I mean, think about it: what do you need to return this week? What do you need to release or let go of? We all have stuff that we’ve carried around with us for far too long. Stuff that’s no longer able to take us anywhere or bring us life as God intends. It’s just baggage we carry that continues to weigh us down. It robs us of life. It corrupts our heart.

So, what do you need to let go of, release, and return this week? Is it a grudge or resentment? Anger? Fear? Disappointment and regret? Guilt? Envy? Maybe you need to return being in control, having to be right, a need for approval, perfectionism. I don’t know what it is for you but I am convinced that we all have our stuff. Maybe Holy Week is the time to return and release it all to God, trusting that God can do something with this stuff when we can’t.

Maybe we need to return love, and forgiveness. Maybe we need to return a kindness... a favor.

And what if returning and releasing this stuff is also about returning to the One who loved us first and loves us most? The only one who was willing to suffer the cross and endure the shame in order to deliver us from the wrath we deserve.

Holy Week offers us a chance to focus on Who Jesus really is... while examining who we really are. And as we do... we’re given the opportunity, once again, to return our heart of stone, for a new heart that’s fashioned by Christ himself... a renewed heart and spirit.

Despite the severe “highs” and “lows” (Hosanna! - crucify him!)... Jesus stayed true to himself and his promises - even the small ones - during the most challenging and difficult week of his life.

And so must we.

So maybe returning the colt is ultimately about returning to our roots... returning our heart to the one who purchased it with his life. Maybe Holy Week is a good time to return to who, and Whose, we are. Amen.

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