Palm Sunday Worship Service, March 28, 2021 “Untied for the Lord”
Join Holy Trinity church members and Pastor Erik for worship on March 28, 2021 via YouTube.
The message “Untied for the Lord” by Pastor Erik can be heard during HTLC Virtual Worship Service.
“Untie it for the Lord”
GOSPEL OF MARK 11:1-11
The Holy Gospel according to Mark, the eleventh chapter.
Glory to you O Lord.
11When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2and 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. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
This is the Gospel of our Lord.
Praise to You O Christ.
A hitching post is a metal or wooden bar that is used where a horse is tied when its owner doesn’t want it to walk away. You may have seen them in a western movie where the cowboy rides into town and ties his horse to the hitching post and walks in to get a drink at the local saloon. I used a hitching post when I was a teenager growing up in Montana. There were some horses that had been donated to the nonprofit ranch where we lived, and I wanted to learn how to ride them. The problem was, I didn’t know a lot about horses. They are big, powerful animals and I was nervous about getting on one of their backs. What if they decided to kick me? What if they bucked me off or took off running? Would I be able to control them?
I was little afraid, but I was determined to try. That’s where the hitching post came in. I could get to know the horse we had, by leading it around by the halter. I could tie it up to the hitching post and spend time grooming it and brushing its hair. This would build up trust between us and makes us more comfortable around each other. I knew the horse we had been given was trained enough that as long as it was tied to the hitching post it wouldn’t buck or try and run away. I could practice putting the saddle on and taking it off. I could even get up in the saddle and practice getting my balance and holding the reins. As long as the horse was attached to the hitching post, I felt safe, but I also knew that as long as the horse was tied up, we were never going to get anywhere. I would never really be riding.
I don’t know if they had hitching posts in the time of Jesus like they did in the old west, but I know they must have had sometime like a post or a bush or a tree to hold their livestock because we read in today’s Gospel from Mark that the disciples were to go and get a colt or young donkey from a village that is tied up. Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem and wants to make a bit of entrance. He knows there are crowds waiting up ahead who are preparing to acknowledge publicly that he is the Messiah. He is coming to fulfill the prophecies and send a message about who God is. One of those prophecies was from Zechariah chapter nine verse nine where it says:
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The Messiah was also supposed to be connected to the Davidic line of ancient kings. Jesus entrance on a donkey would be similar to how his ancestor Solomon rode into Jerusalem hundreds of years before when he became king. This would be one more demonstration of who Jesus really was and how he had been chosen by God.
There was just one problem. Jesus didn’t own a donkey. Apparently, however, Jesus does know about a young donkey in a village nearby and so he sends the disciples to go get it. To be clear, Jesus is not sending his disciples to steal the colt, he just wants to borrow the animal to ride into Jerusalem. He says to his disciples that if anyone is asking why they are taking the young donkey they can tell them that they will bring in back immediately after Jesus has ridden it. Jesus also gives them the authority to declare divine intervention if anyone questions their actions. He says if anyone asks them why they are taking the colt they can say, “The Lord has need of it.” If Jesus is going to make his messianic statement, if he is to fulfil the prophecies, he needs the donkey to ride on. But before he can ride it, the donkey has to be untied.
The disciples may have been a little hesitant to do what Jesus was telling them to do. Would the people really believe them, that God needed the donkey and just let them take it? Maybe the disciples were willing to do what Jesus said because it was not the first time he had asked them to untie something physically or spiritually. There was also the time they had been by the Sea of Galilee when a crowd had started to form as Jesus was teaching. He needed more room in order to be heard.
The Bible says he went out in a boat to teach the crowds. But Jesus didn’t own a boat. Whose was it? He must have sent his disciples to ask a local fisherman if they could untie his boat because he needed it. Something must have moved in the man and he said yes. Because of that yes, Jesus was able to keep teaching and untie the people’s minds from their former ways of thinking and open them up to something bigger from God.
Then there was the time when Jesus had been teaching on the hillside all afternoon and it was beginning to get dark. The disciples wanted to send the people away to go get something to eat. But instead, Jesus sends them into the crowd to see if they can find some food. A little boy ended up coming forward who was willing to share some loaves of bread and fish.
As the disciples untied the bag that contained the food, Jesus prayed over the gift and God’s power unleashed a miracle where everyone was able to have enough. Who knows what other generosity was unleashed among the crowd that day, all because the boy allowed his gift to be untied?
Another time the disciples were with Jesus, was when his friends Mary and Martha were grieving. Their brother, Lazarus had died, and Jesus had not gotten there in time to see him. Jesus wept with his friends in the face of such tragedy. He entered with them into their sense of helplessness and their lack of control. He joined in their sadness, but then he also brought release.
Jesus called Lazarus out from the grave and Lazarus listened. He came out from the tomb still wrapped in the tight bands of cloth from the burial ritual. Lazarus walked out and what was the first thing that Jesus said to those who were standing around witnessing the miracle? Unbind him! Or in other words, untie him. Release him from the bandages that are holding him back so he can be free to live again.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus was about untying people from the things that bound them and held them back from being who God was calling them to be. Jesus knew, as Pastor Tim McConnel reflects, that we are tied down by many things — by guilt, anxiety and concern. Some of us are tied down with the need to forgive, but we cannot bring ourselves to do it. Others are tied down to obsessions or chemical dependence. We may be tied to our smartphones and tablets, unable to put down those devices.
Maybe we are tied to unhealthy relationships, selfish attitudes or materialism, or maybe we are tied to the refusal to answer God’s call on our lives. We need to let go, to let God untie us from our fears and give us boldness to show love, peace, joy or to witness to others. As disciples, we need to be untied from whatever weighs us down.
Palm Sunday is not just a celebration of Christ as the Messiah, but a celebration of Jesus as our liberator from dependencies and afflictions — a celebration of Jesus as Lord of every aspect of our lives. We need to be free to experience Jesus in our lives. We are meant to ride with Jesus: to follow him on his journey into the very presence of God.
So, know today that you have been untied for the Lord, because the Lord has need of you. The Lord has need of your open mind, of your intelligence, of your willingness to learn and grow and try new things. The Lord has need of your generosity, your willingness to give of time and energy and resources to help others. The Lord has need of your willingness to serve, to not be too busy to be present to others and to listen. We have been untied by the Lord for a purpose.
You might be wondering if I ever did untie that horse from the hitching post, back when I was a teenager. You might be wondering if I ever did more than just brush that horse and sit the saddle. I was nervous and a little scared, but I eventually did untie the horse and rode him out into the fields. Even though I had a few mishaps, I began to get more skill and courage. I took the horse further and further from the barn until I reached a point where I felt confident enough to let him run full speed across the open field. That’s where the real fun and excitement began, and I really grew in my ability to ride.
Answering the call of Jesus is not necessarily an easy thing. When we realize that God has need of us, it can make us a little nervous. It can be a little scary to try something new or to try and put to use the gifts that God has given us. It can be challenging and uncomfortable at first. But if we are going to ride with Jesus, we are going to have to let ourselves be untied. We are going to need to be open with a generous spirit and realize that we cannot always be in control. Sure, it might be a little scary, but that’s where the excitement can begin, and the real growth can take place.
-Pastor Erik Goehner