Already Late

A sermon on Mark 11: 1-11 and Philippians 2: 5-11

The Windsor Presbyterian Church Bible Study group the past five weeks has been exploring some of the ways that authoritarianism has become a major part of Christian history and theology over the past 2000 years – and how that affects how people see Jesus.  Authoritarianism is a form of social or political organizing that is characterized by submission to authority, and we learned that even in a place like the USA, with a high priority on personal freedom, there are as much as 35% of a given population of people who actually prefer to follow authoritarian leadership. 

The problem is, as we’ve seen lately in our politics, authoritarian leadership is rarely about love of neighbor and care for the less fortunate.  Instead those who study it find that it includes extreme intolerance of “out-groups” and when associated with fundamentalism leads to “a religion that is conventional, unquestioned, and unreflective.” Pretty much the opposite of a faith that we’re called to in Christ.

You see, the people of Jerusalem wanted an authoritarian leader too – as they threw down their cloaks and palm branches, as they chanted the royal hail to a new king in the city of kings: “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David.”  They wanted a king who would brandish his sword, call down an angelic host, take charge of the world and make them feel safe and powerful too.

Ira Driggers points out the tragic irony.  “Of course, Jesus is headed to a shameful execution—and he knows it. From the moment that he divulged his identity to his disciples, he has prophesied this fate…. Not that Jesus’ mission per se is to die.  Rather Jesus knows that his unbridled approach to human wholeness has proven too disruptive and offensive for those wielding power.  Jesus chooses death because toning down God’s healing love—to avoid death—is not an option. Jesus can only love at full speed.  And Jesus knows that this same love will overcome death itself.  This is not your normal power-wielding, army-raising king.”

Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on purpose on a colt, not a warhorse.  Even in his choice of steed, he shows us a different way to have authority, to be a leader, a savior, a king.  But when he arrived at the temple, with the crowds cheering and shouting, he looked around and knew – it was already late.  The crowds had chosen what kind of king they wanted – not a king of love, peace, healing. A king of dominion and winner-takes-all and throw the bums out and put us in charge – that’s what they wanted.  And so at his trial those same crowds cried out again: not hosanna, but crucify, crucify him.  For a king who empties himself, humbles himself, gives himself up for the sake of the world—this is not a king who succeeds in the world’s eyes.

What about in yours?

To hear the rest, click here.