Palm Sunday

6 04 2009

Below is a paraphrase of a sermon delivered yesterday in  my parish.  I am going from memory, so apologies if i missed something or get something wrong … Once I get a transcript if there are any errors i’ll correct them …

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Consider a couple of stories ..

In one of Aesop’s fables, a group of mice wanted to keep watch on a cat.  One of the wise mice came up with an idea to put a bell around the cat’s neck so as to give clear warning when it was near.  The problem was that no one could figure out how to bell the cat without causing the death of one of their own.

There were two basketball teams, one from a Christian school in Texas and one for children with learning disabilities.  The Christian school slaughtered the other team, 100 – 0.  As the game progressed, the Christian school’s (called the Covenant School) enthusiasm for winning kept on getting stronger and stronger until when they reached 100, they went absolutely wild.  For days, local papers kept criticizing the poor sportsmanship of the Covenant School.

In both instances, the mice and the school for children with learning disabilities were perpetually on the defense against forces that were beyond their control.  We can call the cat “death” and the Covenant School’s advantage (not to mention their behaviour), “sin.”  Without having a good offensive strategy, neither the mice nor the children’s school stood a chance.  And so it is with our own subjection to the powers of Sin and Death.

As we look at what happens during Holy Week, we can see just how smart and crafty Jesus.  Consider the cases of finding the colt for his entry into Jerusalem, finding the upper room to celebrate the passover, and his knowledge of Judas’ betrayal.  Thinking that this was all precognition and divine knowledge would be pretty easy (we are talking about the Son of God after all), but based on a few tidbits from scripture, we can infer that it is very much a possibility Jesus had informants and secret followers who helped him in his plan for Holy Week.  By using passwords and codewords, Jesus was able to direct the disciples on who to look out for.  During Passover in Jerusalem, the city of 50,000 would swell to about 200,000 so without some kind of preparation.  Here are some snippets from Scripture which lend some credence to this theory …

Mark 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.” 23

Mark 14 — On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

At every twist and turn, Jesus is one step ahead of everyone so that everything so that he would face the powers of this world at a time of his choosing, not theirs.  He was playing offense and took the struggles against the powers of sin and death to them instead of waiting for them to come to us.   But at what sacrifice?

Consider now an alternative ending to Aesop’s fable.

The wise mouse, while all of his friends and comrades were sleeping took the bell and went to the barn where the cat was sleeping.  Ever so quietly and gingerly he snuck up on the cat, and collared him with the bell.  At that moment, the cat woke up with a start sending the wise mouse sailing through the air and he landed on the floor with a thud.  Dazed and hurt the mouse looked up to see the cat staring at it from across the floor of the barn.  The cat ran towards the mouse, raised its paws, extended its claws and pounced.

The wise mouse died, but one thing was certain.  The cat had eaten its last mouse.

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