Working Out Our Life – A Palm Sunday Sermon On Mark 11:1-11

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday – Mark 11:1-11

By Unknown author – CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

I don’t know how he did it but Jesus planned his entry into Jerusalem and then entered Jerusalem just as he had planned. It went like clockwork: the colt, the questioning bystanders, and permission to take the colt. It all happened just as Jesus said it would. “Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.” We call it the triumphal entry. 

It’s so tempting and easy to believe that Jesus had his life all worked out and that he always had it together. But what if that’s not true? 

What if Jesus is more like us than we know or want to admit? What if Jesus was always working it out just like we are? What if he struggled with life and death in the same way we do? What if Holy Week for Jesus and for us is a week of figuring it out – figuring out who we are, what we’re about, what matters most; facing our fears and naming our hopes; uncovering, discovering, or recovering something new about ourselves and our lives? What if Jesus is as ambivalent and hesitant about this week as are we? What if today’s triumphal entry is more accurately described as the triumphal drive by or, since Jesus was on a colt, the triumphal ride by? 

Here’s why I ask all that. Today’s gospel reading about the triumphal entry does not end with Jesus staying in Jerusalem. It ends with Jesus leaving Jerusalem. Did you remember that part?   

St. Mark says that after Jesus entered Jerusalem he 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.” He left. But he’ll come back. The triumphal entry it seems is not a one and done. What do you think that’s about? 

Maybe Jesus didn’t have it as together as we think. Maybe he was figuring it out as he went. Maybe he needed time to regroup, get his courage up, recommit. Haven’t there been times when you needed to do that? Maybe he was casing the joint. Maybe he was wrestling with himself or God. Think about all the feelings, hopes, sorrows, and fears Holy Week brings up for you. Do we really think Jesus is above or immune from that? 

Over the next several days of Jesus’ life he will enter Jerusalem four different times. Each time he discovers something new about himself and what is being asked of him. Each time he moves a bit closer and then backs off. Isn’t that how it is with the most significant and profound experiences of our lives? We’re always working it out, trying to understand and make sense of what is happening. We step in and then step away only to step in again. 

What if that’s how we were to approach this week? What if we took our cue from each of those four entries and the questions they set before us?

Today Jesus entered the temple “and when he had looked around at everything” he left and went to Bethany (Mark 11:11). What do you see when you look around at everything in the temple of your life? What does it look like? Who do you see there and who is missing or excluded? What do you want or hope to see? What are you afraid of seeing? What don’t you want to look at? Don’t turn away or close your eyes, take it all in. Carry it with you through this week.

On Monday, according to St. Mark, Jesus came to Jerusalem and cleansed the temple. He drove out the buyers and sellers, and overturned tables and chairs. Then he “went out of the city” (Mark 11:15-9). What needs to be driven out of the temple of your life? What needs turning over or disrupting? What needs to be put back in order? What do you need to let go of this week? What in your life needs to be cleansed, restored, or renewed? What would it look like to reclaim yourself as a sacred and holy place? How might you make your life a temple of prayer?

On Tuesday Jesus again came to Jerusalem. “As he was walking in the temple” the religious leaders asked him, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” (Mark 11:27-28) When he left the temple he went to the Mount of Olives (Mark 13:1, 3). Who or what is the authority in your life? How are you using that authority? Where is it taking you? Has it become a false authority? How does it affect others? Is it enriching or impoverishing your life and the lives of others? We all have authority in our lives and we all author something. What are you authoring? Is that the story you want be telling and living?

The next time Jesus came to Jerusalem was on Thursday evening to eat the Passover meal with his disciples (Mark 14:17-25). With whom and in what ways are you sharing the bread of your life? Who is welcome at your table and who is not? What are you giving and what are you holding back? Where is intimacy and vulnerability in your life and what do they look like? In what ways are you taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing your life with others?

I wonder what you and I will do with Holy Week this year. 

I wonder what Holy Week will do with us this year. 


  1. Life has a way of getting in the way. Our parish is having noonday services everyday this week but I knew the only time life wasn’t going to get in my way of going was today,Monday. So I am very grateful that your Palm Sunday sermon was about the other entries and leavings of Jerusalem. It will give me something to meditate on when I go to church this noon. Thanks, Mike and may God bless your day…and week.

    ellen connelly

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ellen, it’s always good to hear from you. I hope your entries into Holy Week – whether in or outside of the church – return you to yourself and an abundance of Easter life.

      Peace be with you,


  2. thanks for this confirmation Fr Mike. I find it comforting to know that Jeshua struggled as I do and that he can be an example for me as I try to navigate life with all its challenges. God is truly “with us”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for the reminder that God is with me even when I am not bold and brave in living out what I think is His calling for me. I had never contemplated the four arrivals and “retreats” before in this Gospel story. Thank you for this revealing. I am now pondering the persona of Christ and feel even closer to Him.
    Blessings to you in your comings and goings during your Easter journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Erika, I suspect Jesus also had times when he wasn’t as “bold and brave” as he would have liked. I hope each arrival for you brings you a bit closer to yourself and Easter life.

      God’s peace be with you,


  4. I’ve never noticed the comings and goings like this before. Could it be describing His reluctance to move his week forward and His recognition that he has no other choice?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jeri, I think that’s right. It’s his struggle with getting through what lies ahead. And we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

      I hope you all are well and having a blessed Holy Week and that it brings you an abundance of Easter joy and life.

      God‘s peace be with you,


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