It is a short walk from the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives to the western face that leads down past the Garden of Gethsemane, and upward to the Temple Mount.
In Bethpage, amidst triumphant olive branches and palm fronds, Jesus begins marching among his closest supporters and a jubilant crowd, who see in him the possibility of freedom from Rome…freedom from a world in which religion and politics colluded to oppress the many for the benefit of a few.
I can see their joyous faces, as they march arm in arm, singing songs of hope and expectation…and can imagine them filled with a sense of great possibility from their starting point on the eastern slope.
Behind them was the Judean wilderness, a land that was barren and difficult…a land that reminded them of just how difficult and tenuous their daily lives were.
Over the hill to the west was the holy city, Jerusalem…Zion.
Forward they marched, and crested the hill, witnessing the walls of the Temple.
It is but a short hike down the steep slope of the Mount of Olives, through the valley of darkness, and back up again to reach the Temple.
And it would prove to be a similarly short distance between the crowd’s chants of Hosanna’s, and their haunting and resounding cries to crucify the one named Jesus.
We have just finished hearing Mark’s account of the Passion…the strain of events that constitute our core understanding of who this man named Jesus was, and the account of what the world does to such men.
He is praised on the Mount of Olives, then betrayed, falsely accused, beaten mercilessly, and hung on a common cross to die.
Just like anyone who would dare threaten the empire or the reign of Caesar.
The one who healed sick, raised the dead, and fed the 5000 is now abandoned, and killed.
If we stop and think about it, it is a story that makes sense to us.
People suffer every day, and when powerful people who represent powerful interests are threatened, they usually respond with violence.
Despite our best intentions, we humans love to follow a savior, but are quick to walk away when challenges arise.
The way things are is the way they will always be…so why bother getting our hopes up…much less invest in a different kind of world, when it can all come crashing down in an instant?
Palm Sunday is the day that we face the extremes of what it means to be human.
From the top of the mountain, to the cold, dark stone of the tomb.
And we look deeply into this good news that Mark is offering us, asking ourselves how such an account can be called good, or lead to goodness.
There are days this week in which those of us who earnestly desire to live the new life that Jesus manifested in Galilee and Judea, and which led him to face Jerusalem without fear…there are appointed holy days… in which we can more deeply enter into the mystery of this story.
I can not say firmly enough, how important it is that you do everything you can to enter into that mystery, especially if you have never done so before.
Today we are bombarded by words, and if we are not careful, the barrage of words can obscure THE WORD that is speaking most fully in this Passion story.
The services of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday allow us the time and space to sit with our own feelings of loss and shame, to witness the wonder of what this 1st century Jewish man did, and to see all of it in the light of God’s entire creation coming into the fullness of redemption.
So I invite you dear friends, to enter into the mystery.
Take a long hard look at the reality of our world and your own life, and give yourself some time to sit with and contemplate the deep questions that weigh on your heart.
This Holy week has now begun…we have crossed over the Mount of Olives and are now standing face to face with Jerusalem.
What will the Lord do there?
What great mystery have we come to witness?