Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
April 1, 2012
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

“The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once.”  Mark 11:3Today we recall the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem before His Passion and Death.  In this way, we begin Holy Week, and the Gospel today from St. Mark gives us much to think about.

In older cultures, the entry of a king into a city was a triumphant occasion.  It was called the “royal progress” in English, “a state journey made by a royal or noble personage,” “a visit of state” (OED).  A king could not just arrive unannounced.  He had to have heralds who cried out his coming.  And the king had to ride into the city.  In the ancient world, the king entered on a horse, the symbol of war.  A colt, on the other hand, is a young horse less than four years of age.  A colt was a symbol of peace.  No one would ride a colt to do battle.  So, if the king entered on a horse, he was on his way to wage war.  If he entered on a colt, he was coming in peace.

In the Gospel of St. Mark, Jesus instructs two of his disciples to fetch a colt.  When the owner asks why they are doing this, then they are to answer, “The Master has need of it” (Mark 11:3).  They might as well be saying, “The king has need of it.”  It was a royal command.  The owner of the colt needs only to know that “the Master has need of it.”  His word is their command.

Jesus is king, the master, and when He enters Jerusalem, the crowds greet Him saying, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10).    The king is the reflection of God’s presence.  He is God’s representative, the anointed one.  His presence reflects heaven, where glory reigns.  He protects the people, provides peace, and executes justice.  He comes “in the name of the Lord.” 

But there is another part to this story.  The cries of “Hosanna” will soon turn to cries of “Crucify him.”  The king of peace will submit to suffering and to death.  The proclamation of Christ as the king establishing “the kingdom of our father David” will connect with great irony to Pilate’s question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (Matthew 27:11) and the taunt of the soldiers, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matthew 27:29) and the inscription on the cross, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37).  Love submits to hate.  Life lays itself down before death.  The Word becomes silent.  Lies and subterfuge, deceit and betrayal, seem to be winning.  The powers of darkness appear to be victorious.  What kind of king is this? 

This is a King of true power.  He says, “This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.  I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again” (John 10:17).  Jesus does not accept death as inevitable.  He embraces death because He wants it.  He welcomes death freely, with full acceptance, with total obedience.  It is the complete acceptance of death for the sake of love.  It is this total embrace of death for love that should be the starting point of our meditation for this Holy Week.   “I lay down my life in order to take it up again.”