Palm Sunday
MK 14:1—15:47
March 25, 2018

The XXIII Olympic Winter Games began on the 9th and concluded on the 25th of February, 2018. Held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, athletes from all over the world gathered to participate in 102 events in 15 sports. As with all “Olympics,” the opening and closing ceremonies were much anticipated and did not disappoint. A special stadium with a construction cost of $100 million was built just to accommodate the two spectacles and is slated for demolition now that the games are fading into sports history.

As always, there was a swell of emotion as the teams from the various countries marched into the arena, gathering to witness the entry of the torch, which, after traveling around the world, would light the Olympic fire that would burn over the course of the competition. This bright fire was a symbol to remind people that “the games” were in progress.

As the participating countries entered the stadium, as with every Olympiad, they were announced. A quick glimpse would give spectators a preconceived notion of how successful that nation would be. Even those who do not follow sports closely could make a good guess by the way the athletes presented themselves. The size of a delegation, the outfits in which they were dressed, the physiques of the individual athletes were good indicators of the sport they enjoyed back home, the skills they were bringing to the competition, and their chances of winning a medal. Even people who had no interest in the sports competition made a point of watching the opening and closing ceremonies. They always prove to be an exciting spectacle.

Today, we remember the opening and closing ceremonies held in the city of Jerusalem many centuries ago, marking the celebration of Passover. Much like the dominant nations at the opening ceremonies in South Korea last month, The Roman legion, led by a man named Pontius Pilate, marched into the city with great pomp and circumstance. Well equipped, this imposing military force was determined to offer spectators a view of strength, power, control, and the determination to “keep the peace.”

At the same time, religious leaders and Temple authorities were making their own entry onto the scene. Outfitted investments and ceremonial dress intended to define their position or rank in the scheme of things, their entrance sent a message to the spectators as well. The chief priest, the Sanhedrin, the scribes, the Pharisees, and the lawyers were intent on making a showing of their “closeness to God.”

Finally, most likely on the other side of the city, entering through a gate that led out to the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives was what the other two delegations most likely regarded as a mob. The poor, the sick, the outcast, and known sinners were part of the delegation that accompanied a humble but extremely effective preacher from the dusty little village of Nazareth. With little to mark the entrance of this Teacher besides the branches from the trees and the cloaks on their backs, they, nevertheless, celebrated Jesus’s entry into what would become an arena. And the games began.

At the conclusion, Pilate left the Holy City confident that, in spite of the politically charged issue he was forced to deal with, his mission had been a success. He had kept the peace. The power, control, and authority of Rome had gone unchallenged.

So, too, with the Temple authorities. They got rid of this annoying little man Who, for some reason, was able to gather a mob of low-life’s that threatened the status quo. And so, they went on to celebrate The Passover, remembering how The People were freed from slavery in Egypt and made their way to the Promised Land.

The conclusion of the Passover for that final group participating in this cosmic battle between good and evil, at first, seemed like total defeat. They left the arena carrying the mutilated corpse of the man in whom they had placed all of their hope. They left defeated.

But of course, that was not the closing ceremony. The Romans had returned home. The religious leaders had gone back into the restricted areas of the Temple. And the others? They went to the now Empty Tomb and the games began anew.

A Light much brighter than any Olympic fire has ever burned burst into the universe and drove back all darkness. And that brilliant flame, the Light of Christ, will continue to burn…while the battle continues to be fought…until Christ returns to claim the final victory!