Have you ever noticed that an hour glass is representing what it is to be both emptied and refilled at the same time – no matter which way it is turned and the grains are always there in the same quantities.
During the last days of Lent as we head together towards the Good Friday cross we get more of an understanding of why Jesus was being emptied for our redemptive refilling.
So many of our Bible passages allude to variations of full (or filled) and empty (or emptied) – both as a thing and as an action. Think of Job, even in pain, loss, anguish and sadness, the main character can still proclaim, ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job 1:21), or in another of our lectionary readings for today, “I offered my back to those who beat me; my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard, I did not hide my face from mocking or spitting for the Lord helps me. I will not be disgraced.’ (Isaiah 50:6-7)
In the reading from Philippians that Janice brought us earlier, we hear that ‘Christ – being in very nature God – made himself nothing, humbling himself in order to be exalted’ – emptied and filled.
(As an aside, this along with Colossians 1:15-20, is considered to be the earliest Christian hymn we have. Not only that, it predates the theology of John Chapter 1, by up to 40 years.)
And so we come to the emptying and filling experience that is Palm Sunday. It seems on the surface like a story of triumph, a high point in Jesus’ ministry, a time of joy, a time of abundance, a time of refilling to overflowing, but I wonder if we can seek the cracks that are forming, and the sand or water flowing down into the dark space below.
This is not writ large in the events of this passage, but let’s consider what may be happening in the mind of this Saviour who is both fully God and fully man or more appropriately – ‘full’ God and ‘empty man’.
To do this we have to have a geography lesson.
Mark tells us that Jesus and his disciples entered Jerusalem via Bethpage and Bethany, through the Mount of Olives, that is heading west towards the setting sun.
Let’s imagine we see what Jesus, the healer, prophet, priest and King of Heaven may also have seen on that day.
He has passed through land where the mighty city of Jericho once stood – now destroyed. He passes by the desert where he spent forty days and nights being emptied and refilled and commissioned to his ministry. He sees the places that the Edomites and Moabites once lived in, in relative peace before the slaughter and dispossession reeked upon them by the Israelites, so many centuries before.
In the distance to the South west, he sees Bethlehem – the place of his earthly birth – that in the 21st century would be riven by sectarian violence.
Then it is onto Bethany – a place of refuge but also a place of great triumph – where he raised Lazarus from the dead – and made an eternal daughter out of Mary, the sister of Martha.
As he comes closer – does he see the place where the prophet Elijah was carried up to Heaven or does he see the future concrete walls that surround the West Bank to keep the Arabs out.
Does he see the Kidron valley with its past and future graves? The site of the burial of the prophet Zechariah or his beheaded friend the apostle James.
As he comes towards the gates – does he look left to view the Gihon Spring that provided life giving water for his ancestor David and his growing city? Does he continue to look left to see the pool of Siloam where he healed a blind man from birth who had been waiting for Saviour.
Do his eyes dart right toward the sheep gate where the pool of Bethsaida is located where he healed a crippled man who had been waiting 38 years for someone to help him into the healing filled waters.
As he comes nearer to the gates and the end of his earthly mission do his eyes focus to the south east to see the house of Caiaphas with its underground dungeon?
Does he look ahead to where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher will one day be built – that will be fought over by Christian denominations while the Jewish government slowly pushes all the Christians and Muslims out of the Holy places?
Does Jesus look beyond the temple itself to Golgotha or to the North east to where his own tomb will be and the greatest victory will be won?
What a ride it must have been for him on that donkey so many, many years ago.
Where there is an absence of light we can still find God – God is still there, even in the darkest valley or the loneliest of places.
While Jesus, and we, are being emptied in life, there is a refilling still to come – because like the hour glass – nothing is lost. The sand is contained and we are contained in God’s love to be refilled after the emptying and even topped up to overflowing at times – through the power of the Spirit of Jesus.