Are you like the crowd or the donkey thief’s and donkey owner?

Mark 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,
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!’
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.

Jesus told two disciples to go into the village. There they would find a colt tied up and they were to untie the colt and bring it to Jesus. If anyone questioned them, they were to say simply: The Lord needs it….

How do you suppose these disciples felt? How would you feel if Jesus said to you, “You will find a really great, well taken care of motorcycle with the keys in the ignition at the Berry house by the church. Bring it to me!” I don’t know about you, but I would be a bit uncomfortable going over and firing that baby up! My guess is that the disciples were a bit uncomfortable too. They might as well have had T-shirts made that read “Thieves for Jesus!”

But Jesus made it easier. He told them what to say. They knew Jesus and trusted him. They were willing to obey him. They had seen him do wonderful things, and did not believe that he would lead them astray. They went to town, as ordered, and returned with the colt.

In this story, we have two accounts of obedience. First, the two disciples brought back the colt. Second, the colt’s owner allowed Jesus’ to claim it. “The Lord has need of it!” That was enough! Perhaps the owner had heard of Jesus. Perhaps he knew Jesus. At any rate, he allowed the disciples to take the colt. “The Lord needs it.” That’s all he needed to hear. “The Lord needs it.” Have you ever heard Jesus say to you: “I need it.” Or I need you to…….

What would our world be like if everyone responded to Jesus like that? What does the Lord desire of you?
– Lord, you want me to feed the hungry! No problem!
– Lord, you want me to sing in the choir! No problem!
– Lord, you want me to stop and take the time to tell someone about what Jesus did in my life?
No problem!
– Lord, you want me to invite my neighbor to church! No problem!
– Lord, you want me to go and speak up to volunteer at church! No problem!
– Lord, you want me to tithe! No problem!

Do you display that kind of obedience in your life? On that first Palm Sunday, both the disciples and the colt’s owner did what Jesus wanted them to do, they obeyed and that made the difference.

It always makes a difference when we do what Jesus wants us to do, when we are willing to submit to his will without question. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, did wonderful things. Someone asked him the secret of his success. He answered,

I’ll tell you a secret. God has had all there was of me…. If there is any power in the Salvation Army today, it is because God has had all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life.

Florence Nightingale the founder of nursing. Someone asked her the secret of her success. She answered: I have never refused God anything!

James Calvert was a missionary to the Fiji Islands. He worked among cannibals there. The captain of his ship tried to persuade him to turn back. He warned: You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.
Calvert replied, We died before we came here.

But it is not just these famous people that make this a better world because of their obedience to Jesus Christ, it is each of us too. It is those who serve, when they would rather be doing something else. It is those parents and grandparents that take the time to teach children about Jesus in word and deed. It is the obedient doing of many unknowns that matters.

And so Jesus was able to ride into Jerusalem to the shouts of the crowds because of the obedience of the two disciples whom he had sent to get the colt, and the obedience of the owner of the colt.

The ride into Jerusalem was important. Through the centuries, Christians have remembered Palm Sunday as something special. It is the coming of the King of Kings, not only to Jerusalem, but into our lives as well.

The people greeted Jesus as a King. “Hosanna!” they shouted. Hosanna means “Save us!” They paved the road ahead of him with palm branches and clothing, so that Jesus might be spared the dust that usually accompanied such processions. It was a royal welcome, a ticker-tape parade, a presidential inauguration.
“Hosanna! Save us!” The people were excited, because they thought that Jesus was another David, another great king who would save them from the Romans. They expected Jesus to form an army. They expected him to drive the Romans out of their land.

“Hosanna! Save us!” Jesus had come to do just that, but they would find it difficult to recognize his salvation. Jesus would save them from a cross. They could never have imagined that he would save them from a cross. They were looking for salvation in strong places. He would save them from the weakness of the cross. Jesus saved us from a cross, the cross of eternal damnation.

And so are we struck dumb by Jesus’ extravagance. When we consider His extravagance, does it cause us to consider if we are living extravagantly for Jesus, yes being extravagantly obedient because of His extravagant gift of death on a cross? Jesus came from heaven to live among us. He gave up everything heavenly to live an earthly life. He actually lived much of his life in obscurity, we know little about His first 30 years.

Then people began to notice Jesus. He began to attract crowds. He taught, and people listened. He worked miracles, and people marveled. We just sang about how Jesus turned water into wine, he healed, he loved children and treated them differently so soon he had a following. Sometimes the crowds numbered in the thousands. Sometimes Jesus had to escape into the wilderness just to be by himself, to get his head together, and to pray.

There was real power in the crowds. They believed in him. They would do what he told them to do. Jesus was becoming a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps he would even form his own army. People hated the Romans. They were ready for a leader to head the resistance.

It all came to a head on Palm Sunday. Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the Holy City, as a king rides into a conquered city. People cheered! This was Jesus’ moment! The prize was his! The people were excited. “Hosanna!” they cried. “Save us!” But then events turned in a direction which they, this crowd of followers and pilgrims coming for the Passover feast had not foreseen. The authorities arrested Jesus. Politicians stirred up the Jerusalem crowds against him. The first crowd had shouted “Hosanna!” Now the new crowd shouted “Crucify him!”

Before the week was over, Jesus did reveal his power, God’s power, but he did it from a cross. The crowds had expected one thing, but Jesus gave them another. They were surprised, dumbfounded, speechless. They did not know what to think, much less what to say. They had reached the end of the story, and Jesus was dead. There was nothing left to say! It was over! God’s power is shown in the world and to others when we take up the cross of obedience.

We, of course, know the rest of the story. Palm Sunday was not the end, and neither was Good Friday. Jesus would yet have the last word. The people had shouted, “Hosanna! Save us!” and Jesus would do just that, at Easter!

As we go through life, we have our Palm Sundays, exciting, joyful, full-of-hope days. We also have our Good Fridays, those terrible, hopeless days. So wherever we are in our journey, let us remember Jesus’ journey. The people shouted “Hosanna! Save us!” and he did save them.

He saves us too! Not always in the way that we expect, but he saves us! That is his gift to us! As we go through this Holy Week, let us remember Jesus’ journey from the cheers of Palm Sunday to the cross of Good Friday. Let us also remember that, no matter how exciting or terrible life might seem, Jesus’ last word is our salvation! Yes, Jesus saved you from death.

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