150329 Mark 11:1-10

Last Updated on Monday, 30 March 2015 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Mark 11:1-10
Theme: Palm Sunday: The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm is the name of a book (which was later turned into a movie) that tells the story of the 1991 Halloween Nor'easter that ravaged the eastern seaboard of the United States. That storm took the lives of at least twelve people and caused just shy of one billion dollars in damage.

How did it happen? What began as a typical nor'easter developed into a true hurricane when it was stalled offshore by high pressure in Canada. To add fuel to the fire, Hurricane Grace, laden with moisture and heading north in the Atlantic, responded to the cold front and headed toward the low.

It was a Boston meteorologist by the name of Robert Case who preserved this storm's place in history when he said: "These circumstances alone could have created a strong storm, but then, like throwing gasoline on a fire, a dying Hurricane Grace delivered immeasurable tropical energy to create the perfect storm."

This is probably about the time you are thinking to yourself: "Okay, pastor, I appreciate the history lesson, but I don't see the connection. And by the way, you are not a weather man. What does 'the perfect storm' have to do with Palm Sunday?"

All four gospels record the events of Palm Sunday, but not one of them includes a weather report. And even though we don't know what the weather was like when Jesus rode through the streets of Jerusalem, I have a fairly detailed picture in my mind. The Palm Sunday I see is a beautiful day. It's warm, but not too warm. There is a breeze, but it's not too breezy. And in the sky there is a combination of sun and clouds.

If my imagination is correct, if in fact Palm Sunday was a warm, sunny day (and there is nothing recorded in the gospels to make us think that it wasn't), the question needs to be asked again: What does this day have to do with "the perfect storm?"

Most people don't remember the storm that pummeled the east coast almost twenty five years ago, but the phrase that Robert Case coined to describe it lives on. "The perfect storm" is commonly used today in a figurative sense. It refers to a series of seemingly unrelated events that converge to create a situation that is far more significant and much more intense than the individual parts.

And that is exactly what happened on Palm Sunday, the day when a number of different people, places and events came together to set in motion the most important week in the history of the world. That is why it is fitting, that is why it makes sense for us to call...

PALM SUNDAY: THE PERFECT STORM

As Jesus approached Jerusalem, he passed through some familiar territory. Bethany was the home of his friends Mary and Martha. Bethany was the place where Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the dead. That was by no means Jesus' first miracle. That wasn't even the first time Jesus had raised someone from the dead. But the timing of this miracle made it more significant (if that's possible) than anything he had done before.

Maybe it was because Bethany was so close to Jerusalem. Maybe it was because so many Jews had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover. The raising of Lazarus had created a definite buzz. There was excitement in the air. And it seemed like the topic of almost every conversation was Jesus.

The Jewish leaders were talking about Jesus too, but they weren't excited. They were furious. They heard the miraculous reports about Lazarus. They heard what the people were saying about Jesus. They decided that if they were going to survive Jesus had to die. And so from that day forward they actively plotted to take his life (John 11:53).

Jesus knew what they were thinking. Jesus knew what they were planning. But that didn't stop him. That didn't stop him from going to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. After all that was what God-fearing Jews did, and there was no one more God-fearing than Jesus.

The disciples didn't think twice about getting a donkey as Jesus had instructed him. They didn't know why Jesus needed it, but they didn't need to know. Over the course of three years they had learned to trust him. If it was important to Jesus, it was important to them. And so they did exactly as they were told.

The owners of the donkeys didn't seem all that concerned when the disciples started untying their animals. We don't know if Jesus had approached them or if God himself had appeared to them. But when they received the explanation, "The Lord needs it" (Luke 19:34), that was all they needed to know.

The people who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover couldn't wait to see Jesus. And their excitement only grew as he made his way down the Mount of Olives. His reputation had preceded him. His disciples followed him. And the adoring crowds couldn't help but respond with spontaneous praise: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (Mark 11:9)!

It's no great surprise that the Pharisees tried to cut short Jesus' moment of glory. When they saw what the crowds were doing and heard what the people were saying, they came to Jesus and insisted: "Teacher, rebuke your disciples" (Luke 19:39)! And Jesus' response that the stones would cry out if the people stopped only added to their rage.

If you think about it, everything that happened in the days and hours that led up to Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem had happened before. Jesus had attended other Passovers. Jesus had performed other miracles. This was not the first time the Pharisees challenged Jesus. This was not the first time someone wanted to kill Jesus. Jesus' disciples had sung his praises before. Jesus' followers had even wanted to make him a king before.

But on Palm Sunday these seemingly unrelated people and places and events came together to create the perfect storm. And even if that day was as bright and sunny as I picture it in my mind, dark storm clouds were gathering on the horizon.

The people who reported on the perfect storm of 1991 spoke of it in terms of an amazing string of coincidences, but what happened on Palm Sunday was no accident. This perfect storm was the direct result of God's perfect plan.

When Jesus walked along the road to Jerusalem, he knew that this Passover would be his last. Earlier he had told his disciples: "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed by the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified" (Matthew 20:18,19). And even though he was well aware of what awaited him there, Jesus marched on to fulfill God's plan.

When Jesus asked his disciples to go into the village and get a donkey for him to ride, he knew what he was doing. He didn't need it because he was tired. He needed it to fulfill what Zechariah had prophesied about him hundreds of years before (see Zechariah 9:9,10, the Old Testament lesson for today). And so Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to fulfill God's plan.

When the crowds exclaimed, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!," Jesus knew that the calls for his coronation would soon be replaced by cries for his crucifixion. And even though his triumphant march into the city would end five days later on a hill outside the city, Jesus forged ahead to fulfill God's plan.

As soon as sin entered the world, God set in motion a plan to save the world from sin. And God's plan had to be perfect to remove all of our imperfections. God's plan took into account all those times when we refuse to do what he asks us. God's plan covered all of those times when we fail to give him the honor and glory he deserves. God's plan to save us hinged on a perfect Savior. And that is exactly what Jesus was.

Jesus was perfectly humble. He gave up his divine glory for us. He gave up his human dignity for us. He even gave up his life for us. And we catch a glimpse of that humility on Palm Sunday as the King of kings and Lord of lords enters the city on a beast of burden.

Jesus was perfectly obedient. When the Father told him, "You must die so that others might live," Jesus didn't argue or complain or question God. He obeyed...perfectly. And we see Jesus' obedience on Palm Sunday as he rides resolutely through the streets of Jerusalem.

Jesus was perfectly loving. Even though he had done nothing wrong, even though he had done nothing to deserve death, he died. He gave up his life on the cross. He gave up his life willingly for us. He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us because he loves us. Because of Jesus, the cross is the universal symbol of God's unconditional love. And on Palm Sunday we anticipate Jesus' love in action in that single word of prayer and praise: "Hosanna" which means, "Save us!"

Jesus was perfectly humble, perfectly obedient, perfect loving. Jesus was perfect...period. And at the risk of repeating the word too many times, our perfect Savior perfectly fulfilled God's perfect plan.

The end of March is not hurricane season, and we don't live in a part of the country that has to worry about hurricanes anyway. But we do see the coverage on television, and you can probably picture what it looks like in your mind. There is a reporter with microphone in hand in the foreground, all bundled up and struggling to hold his ground. And in the background there are trees and tree branches bending and sometimes even breaking off because of the strong force of the winds.

What a difference between those storms and the perfect storm! On Palm Sunday the people weren't putting on extra layers of clothes to protect themselves from the elements. They were taking off their cloaks and spreading them on the road. On Palm Sunday the crowds weren't seeking shelter from flying branches and debris. They were cutting down branches and waving them in the air.

And at the center of it all, in the eye of the storm, was Jesus. He intentionally put himself in harm's way for us. He deliberately went into the teeth of that storm for you and me. That kind of love inspires us. That kind of sacrificial love motivates us to praise him, to follow him, to dedicate our lives to him, to join with Palm Sunday worshipers from centuries past and proclaim: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord...Hosanna in the highest" (9, 10)! Amen.

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