The Yellow Brick Road
Mark 15:16-20 (NRSV)
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
It was the 1960’s. We gathered in front of our new color TV to watch the annual presentation of the Wizard of Oz. Corn was popped in our iron Dutch oven, coca colas were poured, and the saga of Dorothy began. Dorothy and Toto, running from a mean old woman determined to take Toto from Dorothy, are swept away to the wonderful world of Oz where their dangers only worsen. The only hope to return home is in reaching the great and powerful Oz, and the only advice they received is “follow the yellow brick road.”
Our Scripture today tells us about the last road Jesus would ever walk. Just one week earlier throngs of people welcomed Him into the city of Jerusalem, shouting Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord, yet there was an unseen danger. Much like the Wicked Witch of the West planning a way to destroy Dorothy and steal her ruby slippers, the religious leaders were already plotting Jesus’ demise, hoping to steal his legacy.
I would like to point out some similarities between the fictional account of Dorothy and the narrative of Jesus’ last days.
1. Both the Yellow Brick Road and The Road to Calvary seemingly were one way roads
1. Neither Dorothy and her friends nor Jesus and His Apostles met anyone traveling from the opposite direction
2. Both roads had a singular destination–there was no city beyond Oz nor a place beyond Golgotha.
3. Neither Jesus nor Dorothy traveled alone, yet none of their friends could sacrifice enough to save them
But here is where the roads diverge. While one leads to a magical, mythical land, the other leads to the cruel and very real Place of the Skull.
The phrase, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” has become a way of acknowledging our situation has changed, not just changed but has spun out of our control. In other words, things are so different that our normal coping mechanisms will no longer work.
When Dorothy needed help to return home, she was told to travel to Oz where she would find a powerful wizard who could help her return home. The yellow brick road began in the fanciful and colorful Munchkinland, and on her journey she met a Scarecrow who needed a brain, a Tin Man who needed a heart, and a cowardly lion who needed courage.
Have you ever had a time when you wished for either a yellow brick road or perhaps a pair of ruby slippers that you could click together three time and you would magically be transported away from your troubles? When Jesus prayed in the garden, asking that the bitter cup before him to be removed, he had a very real choice to make. Would he remain faithful to His calling by staying on the Road to Golgotha, or would he take the alternate route, a yellow brick road, still filled with danger but ultimately lifesaving. We all know the choice He made.
When the Roman Empire ruled the world, there was a saying–all roads lead to Rome. From the time Jesus took his first mortal breath, all roads for Him led to the place where he would die.
Just like Dorothy, Jesus was not alone as he walked the road to Calvary. His Apostles as well as other followers were with him, yet just like the Scarecrow who did not have a brain, His followers did not have the understanding to comprehend the Kingdom of God. Just like the Tin Man, His followers did not have the heart, or more importantly the faith to walk the entire pathway to Calvary. And, just like the Cowardly Lion, Jesus’ followers suffered from a lack of courage, so that when Jesus was dying on the Cross they were hidden away, trembling in fear.
Jesus was just where he was supposed to be that fateful day when he walked, stumbled and even crawled towards Calvary. Jesus was just where he was supposed to be when he rose from the dead, and he is just where he is supposed to right now as he sits at the right hand of God the Father.
Each one of us is called to take up our cross and follow Jesus, not down the yellow brick road but on the road to Calvary.
I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but this;
I shall ne’er get sight of the gates of light,
If the way of the cross I miss.
The way of the cross leads home,
The way of the cross leads home,
It is sweet to know as I onward go,
The way of the cross leads home.
I must needs go on in the blood sprinkled way,
The path that the Savior trod,
If I ever climb to the heights sublime,
Where the soul is at home with God.
The way of the cross led Jesus Home, and it leads us home today.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit