Week of April 17: Proper worship and praise for the One most worthy
BY DOREEN SMALLS
Lesson Scripture: Mark 11: 1-11
When was the last time you honored someone? Can you recall a special event or banquet where someone was honored? We joyously shower praise on persons we believe are worthy. Who merits such incredible praise? Mark’s gospel tells us that the people lavished Jesus with praise because they believed he was bringing the reign of God.
The eleventh chapter of Mark is filled with Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah. The fulfillment of these prophecies points readers to the truth about the Messiah and His ultimate purpose.
Mark begins with Jesus arriving near Jerusalem. He came through the towns of “Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives” (Mark 11:1). In the book of Zechariah, the prophet stated “the Lord will stand on the Mount of Olives” (Zechariah 14:4).
When Jesus came to Bethany, he “sent two of his disciples” into the village and instructed them to untie a colt that has never been ridden and to bring it to him (Mark 11:1-2). Mark’s statement references an additional prophecy. Zechariah stated, “… your kings comes to you, righteous and having salvation, humble and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
The prophecies were fulfilled in the New Testament scriptures that indicated the Messiah would bring in the kingdom of God. But the Messiah was more than they expected. They anticipated a warring ruler to appear on a stallion, but instead Jesus entered as a gentle and loving king riding on a colt.
The Roman soldiers often demanded property and animals without consideration of the rightful owners. When Jesus directed the disciples to retrieve the donkey, he told the disciples to tell the owners, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately” (Mark 11:3). Rev. Kevin Baker, pastor of Reconciliation United Methodist Church in Durham, N.C., cites, “Even here at the beginning of his journey into Jerusalem and his final days before his death, Jesus distinguished himself as one who operated not by coercion and force but by persuasion and love.” Why was it is important for Mark to frame Jesus’ coming as a fulfillment of Scripture?
Preparation for praise
How we prepare for worship and praise signifies its importance. Preparation for worship services includes several responsibilities by various persons. One ministry team may be assigned to prepare the altar while another team may be appointed to making sure the temperature and lighting are properly set in the church. Yet another team ensures the worship bulletins are completed while another group makes certain that visitors are welcomed. All details that are done in preparation for worship are considered to be “an act of praise and sacrificial service” as well as an “act of obedience to Jesus.”
When Jesus directed the disciples to go ahead of him and retrieve the colt, they acted in obedience. Mark says, “They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying the colt, some people standing there asked, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said, and they allowed them to take it” (Mark 11:4-6). After they brought the colt to Jesus, they placed their cloaks on it and Jesus sat on it. The preparation became contagious because others began to follow by placing their outer garments on the roads. The text states, “Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields” (Mark 11: 8).
Preparation for worship is taken more seriously in some congregations than in others. This became more apparent while visiting churches in Africa this past January. While their physical structures are pale in comparison to our edifices, their worship was astounding. They had nominal supplies and no paid staff but that did not hinder their worship or lack of preparation. They count it a blessing just to be able to gather to worship.
What would our churches look like on Sunday morning if we prepared for Jesus like those did on the road to Jerusalem?
Shouts of Hosanna!
Mark continues this narrative with the pilgrims praising and shouting. He states, “Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
The cry of Hosanna is more than an act of praise; it is a plea for God to intervene. It literally means “Save now!” In the Jewish tradition, the term Hosanna can be linked back to a quotation from Psalm 118:25-26. It is a part of the psalm’s liturgy that gives thanks for God’s deliverance. This psalm was associated with Feast of Tabernacles and was a part of the Passover Seder meal.
Today we recognize Hosanna from the litany in the Holy Communion. Under the Great Thanksgiving, the congregation speaks in unison:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might … Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
As aforementioned, Hosanna means, “Save us!” Now, imagine hearing the cries of “Hosanna!” today and beyond the four walls of the church, perhaps in the streets of our communities. Who do you think is crying “Hosanna!”? How would the church respond to their cries?
Rev. Doreen Smalls is an associate director at the Office of Connectional Ministries and she serves as Conference Secretary to Global Ministries. If you have any comments or questions, you may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.