Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Hosanna/Palm Sunday

Sermon / Homily on Mark 11:1-11


by Jerry Goebel, One Family Outreach

[10] Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David;
Hosanna in the highest!

[11] Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.

Mark 11:1-3
[Mk 11:1] As they *approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He *sent two of His disciples, [2] and *said to them, Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. [3] If anyone says to you, Why are you doing this? you say, The Lord has need of it; and immediately he will send it back here.

He *sent two of His disciples...

During the Passover Jerusalem would be packed with people. Estimations are that hundreds of thousands were gather on such occasions and the Kidron River would flow red with the blood of sacrificial lambs.

A large room for meeting and dinner within the walls of the city would be difficult (if not impossible) to find. Sending disciples over a kilometer from Bethphage to Bethany to find an unridden colt was not an act of chance. This leaves us with two conjectures that are not mutually exclusive:

1. Did Jesus have some prescient ability with which to foretell the future?

2. Did Jesus plan ahead to this trip to Jerusalem and pre-determine his kingly entrance?

All of my instincts tell me that the second conjecture is true. Jesus did not stumble into the Jordan to be baptized, he did not stumble towards Jerusalem and towards his execution, and he did not accidentally ride into Jerusalem as a King of Peace.

All of my instincts tell me that this was the plan of Jesus all along; to enter Jerusalem in the manner foretold by the prophets.

Here is the incredible revelation: If Jesus planned ahead (as I purport he did); he planned to fulfill the prophecies of old, to stand up to the religious authorities, and finally, to die upon the cross.

The moment Jesus turned to Jerusalem after Peter professed him Christos, our Lord knew he was going to die.

Bravely he walked—not a moment's hesitation—onto the crossbars of eternity with only our restoration at heart.

And we, are we willing to even bypass one selfish notion to take an act of selfless kindness beyond church walls and out to the cells, street corners, and lonely deathbeds of those who desperately seek compassion?

"You will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here"
At this point in all the Gospels the images of all the writers become suddenly more detailed. It was very important for them to let us see the acts of Jesus in direct comparison with the prophecies of the Old Testament.

We must also understand the role of the crowd. By conservative estimates, those around Jesus must have number in the thousands if not tens of thousands. They had witnessed the healing of the blind man in Jericho and the raising of Lazarus in Bethany. They had been stunned by our Lord's miracles and amazed by his preaching. As he approaches Jerusalem the whole town would have been rocked by the footsteps of his followers.

The details about this un-ridden donkey colt is extremely important. Only animals that had never been used could be dedicated to a sacred purpose [Nu 19:2; Dt 21:3; 1Sa 6:7]. In addition, it was prophesied that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey's colt.

Zechariah 9:9
[9] Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

This was symbolic of a king returning in peace. Quite often rulers in ancient history would find themselves in military campaigns lasting years. There was no guarantee that upon the ruler's return the executors of his kingdom would have acted in the king's best interest. In fact, Christ has many stories in this regard. Matthew 21:33-41 is one of the primary stories in which a vineyard owner leaves his slaves in charge while he goes away. When the owner sends servants to collect his profits those left in charge kill them. Finally, the owner sends his only heir and he is killed as well.

Matthew 21:40-41
[40] Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers? [41] They *said to Him, He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.

The evil slaves knew that (according to the law) if they squatted on the land for seven would own the land, killing the owners son would only double their chances. When the rightful owner of that vineyard returned, it would not be on a donkey colt. It would be on a warhorse with an army to back up his claim.

We have also been promised that someday our Lord will return as undisputed king of his domain:

Revelations 19:11
[11] And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.

When this scripture tells us he will judge according to righteousness, it means that he will judge us according to how we "set things right" in his vineyard. Those who "made things wrong" by neglecting the widow or abusing the orphan will find themselves waging war not against mere earthly beings; but against the Lord himself.

On that future day of eternal judgment, things will be quite different. But on that day 2,000 years ago when the son rode into Jerusalem, his Father’s city, it was as a gesture of peace.

Into each of our lives Jesus offers the way of peace. He comes into our hearts—and into our communities—on the colt of a donkey, seeking to bring us the peace within chaos; the life of gentleness, gratitude, humility, and service. We must ask ourselves two critical questions:

Will we step aside for the Son of the Father to take his rightful place in our lives? Will he see the fruits of justice that he demands of his laborers in the vineyards he has leased to us?

Is the community that I live in a community of justice? Would Jesus ride into my neighborhood on a war horse to protect the poor or a colt to his faithful followers. Is my city famous for its justice or for its exploitation of the poor? Who should I ask for the answer of that question? Should I ask the Chamber of Commerce? Should I ask the Downtown Association? Or, should I ask at the juvenile center, the jail, or the check out line at Wal-Mart? Whose opinion would Jesus seek to know whether my neighborhood or city was just or unjust?

Jesus will return, will he come into my life on a war horse or a donkey colt?

Mark 11:4-10
[4] They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they *untied it. [5] Some of the bystanders were saying to them, What are you doing, untying the colt? [6] They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission. [7] They *brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it. [8] And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. [9] Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting:

[10] Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David;
Hosanna in the highest!


The term "Hosanna" that the people were crying is not so much a word as it is a prayer. Let’s look at how it is used in Psalm 118:25:

Psalm 118:25
Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!

The prayer that the people were praying was "Save us, we beseech thee, O LORD!" That is the full meaning of Hosanna. What is monumental about this prayer is that they were calling Jesus "the Lord who saves!" Even more than that, they were singing to Jesus: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."

In addition, the people were spreading out palms and leaves from the trees as well as their own cloak for the coming Savior to ride upon. This action was taken from the Festival of Booths, one of the required feasts of the Jews:

Leviticus 23:40
40 On the first day you shall take the fruit of majestic trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.

In the Festival of booths, the people were to sleep under tents and on branches to remind them of their nomadic heritage. They were to remember how God freed them from slavery through the leadership of Moses. Now, a new Savior—and a new freedom—was given to them. The statements and the actions of the people point to only one thing: They were proclaiming Jesus the Messiah; the Expected One of God.

They had waited for the Messiah all their lives. Their parents, grandparents, and family lines all the way back a millennium years to King David, had waited for the Messiah’s arrival. There is simply no way to express the exuberant joy they must have felt as Jesus rode into his holy city.

We must note that Jesus did not ride into Herod’s castle, but instead, straightway went to the temple of Jerusalem. That was his home. Not a political seat, but the center of faith; the heart of his people. We must also note that the prayer of Hosanna is not a prayer for self-salvation, but for community salvation. People are crying "Lord, save us," not, "Lord save me." The Jewish people cry out for the salvation of their people. Are we of kindred thought? Do we cry out to the Expected One with only our needs in mind? Or, are we mindful of all who are lost, all who need freedom, all who long for salvation?

Yesterday, in a workshop I was giving to religion teachers, one of the teachers asked me; "Whose responsibility is it that all these kids are dropping out, medicated, and at-risk?"

I know the easy answer is to say it is the fault of politicians or greed. But I replied; "It is our fault! The fault of those of us who call ourselves ‘religious.’ We have the moral commission to create a bridge between those who ‘have’ and those who ‘have not.’ The government doesn’t have that commission, corporations don’t have that commission, we have that commission. If our society structures itself in such a way that it does not attend to the ‘least of these’ it is due to a lack of our involvement, we are the commissioned!"

Jesus knew that the true seat of change lay in our faith. He did not come to be a political leader, nor even a religious leader, but to be a Man of God, his actions, words, and time was a model of compassion. To follow him is to model our lives after him.

What do we cry out when we lift our prayers to our Lord and Savior? What do our praise songs express as we await the Lord’s final coming? Are our prayers about me? About my needs? For only my salvation? Or, are we crying out for the salvation of all God’s people? "Hosanna: Lord save all of us!"

Has that Savior ridden into our hearts yet?

"Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David"

Sadly, as Jesus allows the crowd to worship him as that rightful heir to the inner temple, he must already hear the seeds of sin hidden in their praises. They were praising the kingdom of David. The conquering king, the one who conquered Jerusalem from all rivals and brought the Ark of the Covenant to its final home. However, their concept of conqueror was ill-matched with God’s concept of conqueror. Everyone, including the people, the disciples, the religious leaders, Herod and Pilate, and even Satan, saw Jesus positioning himself to try and storm Jerusalem for an earthly kingdom.

They had no clue that a larger battle—a heavenly battle—was being waged for the souls of God’s children.

Even as Jesus rode into Jerusalem accompanied by the songs and prayers of the people, he knew that they would turn on him when his only weapons were to be broken and blessed. Once more we are challenged by our view of the Messiah who saves:

1. Do we see the just Savior as a threat to our power and position like the religious and political leaders of Jesus’ time?

2. Do we see the communal Savior as a fraud because he doesn’t respond to my cries: "Hosanna, save me!"

3. Do we flee from that sacrificial Savior in fear when we realize that what he is truly asking of us is to die to ourselves for the sake of others? Look at Christ’s discourse with the Sons of Thunder (James and John) on this topic:

Mark 10:35-45
35James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." 36And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" 37And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." 38But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" 39They replied, "We are able." Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."

41When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Just, communal, or sacrificial, which Jesus will ride into our hearts this Easter?

Mark 11:11
[11] Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.

After looking around at everything…

When Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem to rebuild and restore the City of God, the first thing that he does is survey the damage:

Nehemiah 2:11-15
11So I came to Jerusalem and was there for three days. 12Then I got up during the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. The only animal I took was the animal I rode. 13I went out by night by the Valley Gate past the Dragon’s Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool; but there was no place for the animal I was riding to continue. 15So I went up by way of the valley by night and inspected the wall. Then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned.

The first step in rebuilding any community is to survey the damage. All too often, we ride into other people’s lives, into their lives, their neighborhoods, or their brokenness, and start telling people what to do instead of listening to their hearts. Most people—and most people in broken communities—know what their pain is (they’ve been living it) even if they don’t know how to yet verbalize a solution. Shame on us when we start telling, selling, or preaching to people or communities without ever listening. The result is we promote our solutions and then get defensive and hostile when people don’t agree with them. We often don’t even stay long enough to ask the right questions that will lead to the right solutions.

Nehemiah didn’t start that way, Jesus didn’t start that way either. They began by surveying the situation, seeking responses from the street, the gates, even the dung heaps. Jesus listened to the crippled, the broken, and the outcast, long before he rode into Jerusalem to assert his authority.

Do we survey the scene as accurately? Do we listen as closely—not just to the ones for whom the system works—but to the ones for whom the system is broken?

Jesus "looked around at everything," before deciding his next move. His next move was swift, unexpected, and decisive. Never, in a million years, would the religious leaders, the people, the disciples, or even Satan, expect that the first action of the Savior would be to single-handedly take over the Court of Gentiles. Radical, stunning; the sting from his belt has lasted for two thousand years. The snap of those cords can still be heard whenever we stand for the rejected or tormented whose access to the love of God has been blocked by religiousity or exploitation.

Before we try and be the "Messiah" in people’s lives by giving them our views, judgments, and opinions, let’s walk their gates, let’s stand in their brokenness, let’s hear their pain. Only then, will we understand the king who rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey colt. Only then will we be able to cleanse ourselves from the false messiahs of power, manipulation, and control. Only then will we truly understand what it means to cry out; "Hosanna, save us!"

Copyright © 2005 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.

See Also:

Sermons and Commentaries for the Palm Sunday

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