October 27, 2018
They came to Jericho.
These are the first words in our text from the book of Mark. The “they” is Jesus and his disciples. What this group does while in Jericho, we don’t know,; however, we do know that it must have been impressive, because, by the time they leave Jericho, their group has swelled from a group of 13 to a large crowd. This small band of people has managed, in a very short time, to become a sort of human caravan; they are a crowd on a journey. Where are they headed after they leave Jericho? It turns out, they are headed to Jerusalem. But wait, we’ll come back to that.
For now, they are in Jericho, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world; estimated to be around 10,000 years old. It is the city with the oldest known protective wall in the world. By the time Jesus and his disciples roll through town, Jericho was already around 8,000 years old! In other words, by the time Jesus shows up, Jericho has already seen a lot of stuff.
Excavations in Jericho have revealed evidence of dwellers from the stone-age, hunter-gatherers, and artifacts from the Bronze Age, which was the backdrop for the fall of the Great Wall of Jericho at the hands of the Israelites according to the book of Joshua, a pivotal moment for both Jews and Christians. Jericho reveals artifacts from the Iron Age. After the death of Jesus, Jericho saw the Byzantine Empire arrive in the 4th century, when Christianity first took hold there, by which time there were already at least two major Jewish synagogues. In the 8th century, Jericho greeted her first Muslim inhabitants. The Crusades ravaged her in the 12th century. Jericho was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century; blood soaked her soil during both World Wars I and II. Although Jericho technically has been occupied by Israel since 1967, Palestine has administrative authority over the city; however, Jericho is encircled by four roadblocks which significantly restrict Jericho’s Palestinians’ movement through the West Bank. So, suffice it to say, Jericho bears her share of battle scars and has seen some stuff.
The city is so old and has seen so much history and human drama, one must wonder…by the time Jesus and his band of disciples show up–is there anything new for Jericho to see? Surely, the city had seen it all, even two thousand years ago when Jesus rolls through town. So was this Jesus something new, or was he just another prophet or preacher, another healer from the country, passing through town?
It would seem Jesus is something new, as his numbers continue to swell. He enters Jericho with twelve; he leaves with a large crowd. And as the crowd moves prepares to leave the city, they encounter a blind beggar. When this blind beggar hears this man passing through town wais Jesus, he calls out to him. Many people tries to hush him but he only calls out louder, “Jesus, Son of David! Have mercy on me!” Jesus stops in his tracks and tells the man to come to him., A and the man jumps up and runs blindly to Jesus, and Jesus heals this man and the man follows Jesus, and the mob picks up yet another disciple as they move through town on their way to Jerusalem. This Jesus, prophet, healer, Messiah, is on the move.
The crowd, this human caravan, begins the journey to Jerusalem. The road from Jericho to Jerusalem was known as “The Way of Blood,” due to the amount of bloodshed from robberies and other acts of violence. It is a road both of heroism and hypocrisy, when two religious people pass by a traveler who has just been attacked and left for dead on the side of the road. The only one who stops to help him is a Samaritan, an enemy of the injured Jewish man. And yet he heroically stops while the other two hypocritically go on their way. Martin Luther King, Jr, sums up this parable by saying the first two likely didn’t stop, because they are either afraid the robbers were still hiding closeby or else they suspect the injured man is faking it in order to lure them in and rob them, and so the greatest risk the Samaritan man takes by helping the injured man was–what might happen to me?
There is risk on this road from Jericho to Jerusalem. This human caravan, picking up numbers as it moves, could easily be ambushed. These are not soldiers or warriors, these are farmers, shepherds and fishermen. These are stone masons, bricklayers, carpenters. These are mothers, fathers, grandparents. These are not terrorists seeking to invade Jerusalem, these are humans following hope even at tremendous personal risk.
Jesus gives them hope that the sick can be healed, that sins can be forgiven, that life can follow death. Jesus gives them hope that they matter, that they are not merely a herd of cattle, but rather a caravan of beloved and precious Sons and Daughters of God the Most High. And so as Jesus moves from Jericho to Jerusalem, from celebration to crucifixion, the crowd moves with him. The blind man is compelled to move with Jesus; his only other option is to remain in the place where he once was blind, a place of shadow and judgment. Yet, he stands and moves.
God is on the move when hope mobilizes despairing people, when the road from Jericho to Jerusalem is traveled safely, when the road from Honduras to the US is traversed without violence, when a demoralized and impoverished people find their courage to get up and go, putting one foot in front of the other, emboldened by sweaty hope, carrying their children on their shoulders.
God is on the move when three disciples becomes six becomes twelve becomes a great crowd moving from countryside to sea to mountaintop. God is on the move when 100 becomes 1000 becomes 15000 moving from village to city park to international border.
God is on the move when you proclaim with shoulders back and chin held high, “I will not be silenced,” when persistence prevails, when chants of “Yes, We Could!” become chants of “Yes, We Can!” and when the single human voice blends in with the throng of human chorus. God is on the move when, in the face of forced silence, the brave human voice says, “Listen to me, Jesus, Son of David!”
God is on the move, when your very foundation trembles and your Jericho walls fall and you witness with your own eyes the power of God, when you see walls continue to fall and realize you are free from whatever it is that holds you captive, when you receive a blanket instead of foil, a job instead of a handout and a home instead of a tent.
God is on the move when your eyes are opened to injustice and you find yourself saying and doing the bold thing, even though you are shaken to your core in fear, when you remember your brothers Abraham and Moses and take courage from them when God told them it is time to get up and move.
God is on the move, when you are oppressed or repressed or depressed, when you lack the strength to pull yourself out of bed, when you search every day for deep meaning, when you wonder what to do with your one wild and precious life; God is on the move, when walls between people crumble with a mighty crash.
God is on the move, whether you come to this place legally or illegally, whether you come here by land bridge or shackled to a ship, whether you are male or female or somewhere in between, regardless of whom you love,; God is on the move, whether you showered this morning or last week; God is on the move regardless of your native tongue or your cuisine or the origin of your name or the thickness of your wallet or the way in which you pray, God is on the move. Do not be afraid, be of good courage–God is moving towards you.