His Understated Triumph

A homily, based on Mark 11.1-11, preached with the people of the Episcopal Church congregations of All Saints’, Clinton, SC, and Epiphany, Laurens, SC, on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Jesus enters Jerusalem. This is the denouement of the story of his earthly ministry. His story that began with his baptism in the River Jordan at the hands of John the baptizer, and then his arduous temptations in the wilderness, and then his inaugural word of the essence of his life and labor, “The kingdom of God is at hand”, and then the call of his disciples, and then his teaching and preaching and healing, exercising his authority o’er the realms of time and space, flesh and spirit, and then the increasing, deepening, death-scheming hostility of the worldly secular and religious powers and principalities.

And now, entering Jerusalem, Jesus, proverbially, tosses the gauntlet, crosses the Rubicon, the line in the sand to face the final confrontation with his enemies; all who cherish their status quo of zealously-guarded prominence and privilege, rejecting the gospel of God’s love and justice for all.

Jesus enters Jerusalem, Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)

Yet what an odd entry it is!

First, shrouded in the shadowy mystique of inscrutable directions. “Go, find the colt that never has been ridden.” How do you know that, Jesus? And “If anyone says, ‘What are you doing?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it’.” How will they know that, Jesus?

Then, shining in the light of understated dimensions. Jesus rides a colt, a donkey. Jesus, why not a majestic, regal steed? He is accompanied by crowds of his disciples and common folk. Jesus, where is the triumphal entourage? The crowds cry, “Hosanna!” Jesus, why are they not praising you as “Son of David” or “king” or “King of Israel”?(1) Jesus goes to the temple, looks around, and leaves. Jesus, what happened to the symbolic ritual of claiming your authority; taking up residence in your temple?

But that’s precisely the point. Jesus, from the beginning and throughout his ministry, told and showed his disciples and, throughout time unto this our very day, through scripture, the stories of the saints and all faithful followers, Jesus has told and has shown us that his Lordship is Love, his power is self-sacrificial service, his grandeur is humility, his throne is the cross of his saving dying, and that his disciples are those who live likewise.

It’s always been and always will be that simple and difficult.


Illustration: Jesus enters Jerusalem, Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)

(1) These are the titles the crowds shouting according to the other gospel narratives: “Son of David” (Matthew 21.9), “king” (Luke 19.38), and “King of Israel” (John 12.13).

2 thoughts on “His Understated Triumph

  1. I love this Paul because it forces us to remember that Jesus was only about LOVE and not what he wore or rode on or lived in. In the world we live in where we relish all the things we “own” we need stop and think about what a powerful Jesus was just with his words and presence rather than what he rode in on or what he wore. I’m glad that I’m my attempt to follow Jesus I’m now much more focused on my message than I am on my appearance when delivering it. Understated is so much more effective in my option that overstated! You’ve given us such a great reminder!

    Much love!!


  2. Thanks, Loretta…

    And here’s the striking thing about Jesus’ appearances, truly, the appearances throughout the Jesus-story…

    That God took flesh in a baby born to an unwed mother and laid in a manger, a feeding trough for animals…

    That the Holy Family went on the lam to Egypt to escape the murderous threats of King Herod, thus, becoming/being refugees…

    That Jesus’ profession of carpentry was hardly of the stature of one learned in God’s Law…

    That et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, there is little to nothing of the Jesus-story of the Bible that presents itself in the appearances of worldly grandeur…

    However, beneath the veil of this apparent incongruence, I believe, is the wonder of what God seeks to reveal to us and that God, through the Spirit, desires that we discern: It is precisely in what appears to be worldly lack and failure that true, aye, truest glory resides and abounds. Moreover, what if we humans actually perceived and believed that enough to live it, thus, liberated from our earthly concerns about how we appear to others, yea, to ourselves?

    Thank God for God’s patience with us!



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