· Entering Jesus’ world is like Alice entering her wonderland: we often find things are upside down and backward relative to our everyday world. We find that we must lose our life in order to save it. We find a humble king. We find the first shall be last and the last shall be first. We find the dead become the living. We find the rich and the powerful are on the outside and the poor are blessed. Is it any wonder this man’s own family thought he was crazy? Is it any wonder the good religious folks of his day thought he was wrong? Is it any wonder the religious and imperial authorities saw him as a dangerous revolutionary? Is it any wonder he hung out with outcasts and sinners?
· This morning we once again drop into the rabbit hole. In Zen Buddhism there is something called a koan. Now a koan is a short phrase from a teaching or a story from the life of a spiritual master pointing to the nature of ultimate reality. Most ancient cultures used stories in this way—including the first Christians and this morning we have what I call the Palm Sunday koan. Most of us know the story of palm Sunday like we know our phone numbers—but if we never get past the symbol or symbols and get to the meaning behind them we never crack the coconut and get to the life giving stuff inside…
· As we slide down the rabbit hole we drop into a world where nothing is the ultimate something. I’ll say it again, nothing, No-thing is the ultimate something and this has the power to save us. We land in the beginning of Passover week 2000 years ago. Passover marked the passage from winter to spring when new life emerges—a really big deal for an agricultural society. It was also, is also, a time when Jews tell stories of political and spiritual deliverance. It is very significant that our story takes place during Passover—Jesus, the man whose very name means deliverance and salvation is riding into the Holy city…
· Mark has Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt—a young donkey. The author is implicitly referring to a passage in Zechariah. This is symbolism telling us that Jesus is a humble king. We must be in wonderland—we are encountering a humble king. Why would Mark, the first gospel writer, reference this line from Zechariah about a humble King? What is he saying about Jesus? As usual we can turn to Paul for a clue. As I have said before, All of the gospels are heavily influenced by Paul—none more so than Mark. Paul’s famous lines about Jesus humbling himself, emptying himself, making himself as nothing, they tell us what Mark is describing here. A person who is ready to be as nothing is humble—a person who is proud is trying to be something. Fear of being nothing causes us to try to become something through the accumulation of ideas, materials, and achievements. Most of our lives are spent trying to do something, to be something, all to escape from being nothing.
· Aryeh Kaplan, a brilliant Rabbi said that the true Hebrew word for “I” also means nothing—the true “I” is nothing or no-thing. God is nothing. God is No-thing!
· The brilliant Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said, “Spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than addition”. Instead of asking people what they do for Jesus maybe we can ask what they are not doing for Jesus.
· At the beginning of Passover week, at the beginning of this time of deliverance and liberation, this man who emptied himself, who allowed himself to be nothing, is riding into the Holy city. And the people are screaming Hosanna, which means “save us”. A humble man, a nothing man, is the savior. Why? Because only a person that is humble, that allows him or herself to be as nothing is truly a saint, and a saint is a person that allows the divine to shine through them. So when we encounter the person who is nothing we are encountering God. Jesus, The nothing man, is the representative of the most potent power—a power that delivers, a power that saves.
· The people go on shouting, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”. Most of us, if we’re willing to be completely honest, too often come in our own name. We are mostly concerned with self-centered interests. We are conditioned to compete with others to be something—and then we condition others to compete to be something. We value, emulate, and admire the some-bodies, the some-things. Our consumerist culture depends on this. Only a humble-King, this nothing man riding into the Holy city on a donkey can truly come in the name of the Lord—for he has emptied himself, made himself nothing. He cannot come in his own name, he can only come in God’s name.
· It is the beginning of Holy week and WE are riding into Jerusalem. It is the beginning of Holy week, are WE ready to empty ourselves? Are we ready to be nothing? It is the beginning of Holy week in whose name do we come?