‘Go’ for Launch
March 25, 2018
By John Partridge*
Mark 11:1-11 Zechariah 9:9-10
How many of you have ever watched the launch of a Saturn V rocket from the Apollo program, or a Space Shuttle, an Atlas, a SpaceX Falcon 9 or any other rocket? The entire countdown can take days, and that doesn’t include all of the construction and preparation that happened before the rocket ever made it to the launch pad. But near the end, just before the final countdown, the Launch Director takes a poll of all the stations that are monitoring the launch. And as you listen, you can hear him name every single position, and before the launch can proceed, each of them must answer that they are ‘Go’ for launch. If even one of them fails to answer in the affirmative, then the launch cannot proceed. Everything must be ready. Every detail must be exactly as it should be.
We understand that. Once, during the Space Shuttle program, one station operator reported that they were not “Go” for launch and the Launch Director chose to proceed anyway. That station operator was reporting that the temperatures at the launch pad were below the required operating temperatures of the spacecraft. And when the launch director followed the instructions of his superiors and ignored the “No Go” from that station operator, he doomed the entire crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
Rockets are powerful and dangerous. Millions, even billions of dollars of investment and years, sometimes decades of work are on the line. If even one thing goes wrong, everything the teams have worked for could be ruined. There is no room for error.
But that is exactly what we witness as we read the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in
Mark 11:1-11. God has been preparing humanity for this moment for thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of years. Lives, governments, nations, and even empires had been pulled, prodded, guided, lifted up, brought down, created, and destroyed, to bring everything into readiness for what we now call Holy Week. And in this passage of scripture, we can see Jesus checking off the last boxes of the launch poll.
11:1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Hosanna!” [Hosanna means “save us”]
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
Jesus sends two disciples ahead to acquire a donkey with which to ride upon during his entrance into the holy city of Jerusalem and tells them that if anyone asks why they are taking it, to simply tell them that “the Lord needs it” and will return it shortly. That phrase, “The Lord needs it” can also be translated as “The master has need of it” but in either case we are left with only two options. Either Jesus had somehow, made arrangements in advance for that donkey to be there and the disciples simply needed to arrive and confirm that they were picking it up for him, or Jesus knew that the donkey was there, and that this answer would satisfy those witnesses, all while he was still miles away from that place. But whichever possibility you think is true, it enables Jesus to arrive in the city in the same manner that the kings of Israel had done throughout history and also allows him to check off another item on that pre-launch checklist. We know that many of the things that Jesus did were a fulfillment of the prophecies contained in the Old Testament, and this is no exception. I think that you will find that this passage from Zechariah 9:9-10 will sound remarkably similar to the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.
The people along the road knew who Jesus was. They had heard of the things that he had done. They had witnessed his miracles. They had listened to him preach. But they were expecting a military and a political leader. They were looking for a government that would save them instead of a God who loved them. Today they praised him, but within the week, as they realized that Jesus had no intention of taking over the government, they would turn on him, betray him, and hand him over to the chief priests and the Roman army.
As Jesus enters into the city of Jerusalem, and as he, and his disciples, draw closer to the climax of the story next week at Easter, Jesus will continually fulfill the promises of God and the prophecies of the Old Testament.
The impossible becomes possible.
What was seen in visions and dreams becomes reality.
What was foretold as the future becomes the present.
God’s promise is kept.
Israel’s hope becomes truth.
The hope of future generations unfolds like a flower opening in the spring.
The launch poll has been completed. All is in readiness. All systems are “Go.”
There is no room for error.
The rescue of all humanity is beginning in 10… 9… 8…7…
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.