Sermon March 25, 2018

“Palms and Politics”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Mark 11: 1-11
March 25, 2018

If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” Mark 11:31

On June 14, 1940, Paris fell to the Nazis. By the 22nd of the month France had signed a peace agreement with the Nazis. The demands placed upon the French were catastrophic:

  • All Jews, living in France, would be surrendered to the Nazis.

  • The French Army would be disbanded, except for 100,000 men who would maintain domestic order.

  • French soldiers, already captured by Germany – 1.5 million of them – would remain prisoners of war.

  • The Vichy government would stop members of the French armed forces from leaving France (thereby precluding their anti-German efforts elsewhere).

  • Pétain’s government would instruct French citizens not to resist Germany’s occupation of their country.

  • France would pay for the German occupation.2

France was essentially crushed. But there were some who continued to resist German occupation, who fought on waiting for the day of French liberation. Commenting on the importance of the French resistance, Eisenhower wrote:

Throughout France the Free French [that is, the Resistance] had been of inestimable value in the campaign… Without their great assistance the liberation of France and the defeat of the enemy in Western Europe would have consumed a much longer time and meant greater losses to ourselves.  (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, page 296.)

There was a fifth column in France. Not professional soldiers but citizens who were willing to fight and die for the liberation of their country.

Which brings me to this donkey. My friends, there was a fifth column in Israel willing to fight against Roman occupation. Let me build my case.

Throughout the Gospels excitement builds. As Jesus begins His public ministry crowds begin to gather to hear Him speak, to see a miracle, to learn of the kingdom of God and when Jesus said, “The kingdom of God has come near,” what do you think they heard? Can we not forgive them for thinking that Jesus was talking about the end of their subjugation to Rome, that the Messiah they had long awaited had finally come and with God on their side, Rome would be scattered? Would you not have lent your donkey if this Jesus had asked for it?

But it had to be done in secret. You can’t just walk up to Jesus and hand Him the reigns. Why? Let me suggest that Jesus was making sure the authorities could not act against Him until it was a time of His own choosing. Jesus was being careful. So the donkey is tied to a hitching post. I can imagine that leaving your property unattended in a busy market place was an invitation to be robed. So there is someone assigned the task of watching the donkey, of making sure that Jesus’ disciples and them alone ended up taking the beast. It reads like a novel about the CIA. They devise a coded message so those protecting the donkey from being stolen will be able to identify who was a servant of Jesus: “If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’”  There was a fifth column.

All of us have need of victory. We desire to hear words of truth spoken by those who govern. We want a cure to social injustice. We desire understanding between various factions in our public life. Are we all that dissimilar to those who lived in the time of Jesus?

And do we not all struggle with demons unseen? There is someone hear today who has known or has seen the crippling effects of addiction in those they love. There is someone who has been slighted, ignored or belittled and whose soul bears the weight of feeling worthless. There are those whose faith has been shaken by events outside their control. Have not we all done a thing of great regret. Oh how we wish we could take it all back, go down a different road. Too many live with the milestone of guilt making it impossible to cross over into joy. We turn to Jesus and await deliverance. Are we all that dissimilar to those who lived in the time of Jesus?

And yet we know what they did not. We know that Sunday is coming. We know that while during this Holy Week it will look like Satan won, it is the beginning of evils’ reign. Sunday is coming.

In many ways, we serve as Christ’s fifth column in the modern world. It is so easy to fall into a state of despair, to fret not just about tomorrow but whether there will be a tomorrow. We know the power of next Sunday’s message but the battle with evil goes on – in our lives, in our world. So we, too, must choose a side, must stand against the powers and principalities that so often sweep us away. We must stand watch and wait for the King of Kings to come in triumph. We stand by the hitching post and wait for the sign to be given; for we, too, seek to prepare the world for the coming of the Lord. Let us pray….

1Mark 11:1-11 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,

Hosanna!    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!10     Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 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.