One my favorite games to play when I was a child, was Marco Polo. We used to play it in the pool almost every single day in the summer. My brother used to make all sorts of rules that I never ever followed. His eyes would be closed calling “Marco!”. And I was quietly getting out of the pool and stand as close to the wall as I could and calling “Polo!” And he would swim to that side of the pool at which point I would run around to the other side and say again “Polo!” He would get so mad when he realized what I was doing. At which point, I would laugh and climb back in and play by the rules. Sometimes hearing and understanding the true message of Christ is a bit like playing Marco Polo. Our own expectations and rules get in the way of hearing the true word of God.
We walk around with our eyes closed calling for God expecting him to answer in a very specific way. We’ve placed rules on how God is allowed to answer our prayers, our pleas, and our calls. We have our expectations. And it is hard to see past those expectations to see the true intent of God. The Messiah was supposed to be something very different than what Christ and God determined it to be. To the Hebrew peoples, a messiah was a king, a military leader who would come in a display of force into the holy city and rid it of all the pagans who inflicted pain and suffering upon the people lifting Israel to her former glory. Yet that is not quite what we see in the triumphal entry.
So I ask you, what was the message Christ was trying to share with people by his entrance into the city? (Congregation is invited to share thoughts) Christ was very careful on how he came into the city. He didn’t just waltz into Jerusalem as just another pilgrim during the holiday season. No. He carefully planned to ride in on a donkey and a colt to fulfill the prophecies. He wanted people to see that he was humble, not a powerful king or military leader. It was his signal that he was there to bring peace to the people mirroring the peacefulness of Jehu from Zechariah. Christ was trying to invoke peace and not a Messianic parade that threatened to deteriorate into a riot.
But it was his disciples, the people, and the crowds that whipped this into a Messianic parade. This would bring the wrath of those in charge, Roman and Pharisee alike. When we read the scriptures, we are encouraged to see ourselves in each one of the characters. This helps us to come to a truthful understanding who we are and what our faults are ultimately leading us to an understanding of the true gift, we have received, of grace in Christ. Jesus came using the image of peace from the scriptures and instead was praised as a king coming to liberate the people. His real intent was completely misunderstood because of what others thought and determined he should be and this misunderstanding would ultimately make him into that suffering servant we saw in our Isaiah reading.
Christ was inviting the people to see the Messiah as something different than the traditional militaristic king coming to bring liberation through death and conflict. He was inviting them to see the message of God as being something that defies tradition and God’s work as something that was more about compassion than it was about lifting up one people at the expense of another. God acts out of compassion and love whereas humanity acts out of stress, misguided biases, and violence. We need to look beyond the parameters that we have placed upon God’s message to be truly open to the one thing that can really free us from the confines of humanity love and compassion.
Christ wanted people to look beyond the traditions and to God in his triumphal entry, though I fear even the disciples missed his message that day. But we do not need to miss the message today. We can look on the scene from thousands of years later praying that our hearts be open to the new and wonderful ways in which God is working in our world today, for the new ways God asks us to work for that peace Christ sought. William Wilberforce, a philanthropist who fought for the end of slavery in the 19th century, said “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know”. We have stood by the side of the road this day with the crowd and we have seen Christ’s entrance and understood his message in the context of his ultimate sacrifice.
The message is to live a life of peace: to seek peace, to enact peace, and we can never again say that we didn’t know. Remember to look for God out of the boundaries that we have erected in life. See his message, feel how it opens our hearts in new ways. My brother finally caught on to my trick when we played Marco Polo and began to listen outside of the boundaries of the pool. Isaiah preached “Morning by morning he wakens – wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught”. God is awakening your ear to him. Listen and learn, feel him at work through all that you do. Live into the peace he calls all people to, live into the peace that Christ died to show us. This is our challenge this holy week, and every day. Find God’s love and compassion and lift that up in your lives today.
 William Wilberforce, 19th Century.
 Isaiah 50: 4b, NRSV.
(Based on Isaiah 50: 4-9 and Matthew 21: 1-11)