if Jesus rode into Louisville
in the same way
that he rode into Jerusalem.
What would the news coverage sound like?
“Well, Bob, it’s a beautiful sunny day
here in Louisville Kentucky.
The sun is out and the sky is blue.
The streets are packed.
People are throwing streamers and confetti.
Folks are wearing hats
with shiny Mylar halos
You can feel excitement and expectation
shimmering in the air.
“Yes, Jim, it’s because Jesus,
the Messiah, the King of the Jews
is riding into Louisville.
And here he comes now.
Wait a minute, what’s that he’s riding in?
Everyone was expecting a stretch limousine
with bulletproof Plexiglas shields
and a police escort
in front and behind.
But no, he’s riding
in an old green rusted out pickup truck.
Little bits of hay
floating up in the breeze
from something they hauled
earlier this morning.
What do you think, Joe,
is Jesus trying to play an angle here?
Don’t know, Bob.
Jesus was always one for the surprises.
But that hasn’t deterred the crowd at all.
People are jumping,
they are cheering and dancing
The place is alive with expectation.
Over What Jesus is going to do.
If Jesus rode into Louisville
like he rode into Jerusalem,
everyone would expect him to make it
so that you didn’t have to work three jobs
to make ends meet,
and that families listened to each other
and helped each other
so that they stuck together,
that everyone would have access
to a top notch education.
And that your basketball team,
Whatever basketball team that might be,
Would always win.
The President was coming to town,
the big cheese, the CEO, the genrallissimo,
the Chairman of the Board, the boss.
Well, we’re about to find out
what the real boss coming into the city
is really going to do.
If you were a member of Mark’s church,
listening to the Gospel of Mark
read for the first time,
You would probably be living in a Greek city
or town, outside Jerusalem.
You would probably speak Greek,
dress in Greek clothes.
You would be familiar
with Greek mythology,
and greek drama, Greek plays.
You would recognize
in Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem
a theme that happened a lot
in Greek plays
It was called tragic irony.
In Greek plays, often the hero
and almost everybody else
thinks that the hero
will remain successful and powerful
for their whole lives. Never fall.
On the other hand, you in the audience know
that the hero will be dead
by the end of the play,
or at least brought low.
So everybody in Jerusalem
thinks that Jesus is the Messiah,
the King riding into victory,
when you in the congregation know
that by the end of the story,
Jesus is going to be crucified,
dead, brought low.
Notice how people keep referring to him
as Messiah or king.
The high priest asks Jesus
“Are you the Messiah?”
Pilate asks the crowd,
“Do you want me to release for you
The king of the Jews?
This king, who was high, up here,
Ends up being treated like a slave,
and not just any slave,
but the worst,
most despised kind of slave,
a rebellious slave
whom they humiliated and demeaned
and tortured and killed
by crucifying them.
Of course the absolute genius of Mark
is that this tragic irony
now turns into double irony.
Because unlike almost everybody else
in the story,
you and I know
that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the king,
precisely because he is crucified
as a slave.
Remember what Jesus says in Mark chapter 10?
The rulers (the kings) of the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones are tyrants
but it shall not be so among you.
But whoever wishes
to become great among you
must be your servant,
and whoever wishes to be first among you
must be slave of all.
For the Son of Man came not to be served
but to serve,
and to give his life
as a ransom for many.”
The world “Ransom” means
the money you would pay
in order to buy a slave into freedom.
That’s what Jesus does at the cross.
Because we are all slaves.
We are driven too and fro
by the hurt that has been done to us,
and the fear of hurt
that might be done to us.
We are driven too and fro
by the hurt that we have done others,
and by the hurt
that we might do to others.
We are driven
by the need to fit in
and the need to stand out,
by the fear of death and the fear of life.
We are a world of slaves,
a species of slaves.
Jesus becomes a slave with us,
the most undignified, degraded kind of slave,
and the chains
with which we have bound ourselves,
in which we have buried ourselves, Jesus shatters from the inside out.
We have been freed for a purpose. A mission.
We have been freed to serve in such a way
That we become a part
of Jesus’s freeing others.
This is what the boss does,
and what he calls us to do as well.
Thanks be to God.