As a fan of both Felix and Jesus, I enjoyed this. Thanks, Rick.
Doc has been wondering why I've gone AWOL, bless his heart. So, here I go and offer an opposing view regarding Felix and Opening Day. Now, I have absolutely no argument with Jemanji, who I consider my sensei in all things Mariner (did I spell that right?). This alternative serves to offer a heart perspective to the contrary. I want Felix on the mound, mostly for personal reasons.
Over the past year I have been working on something I have wanted to do for a long time: write a book on the life of Jesus of Nazareth. I have completed my task, outside of the editing, and have pre-published a "volume 1" on amazon because I wanted to offer the book at Christmas time, but the task wasn't completed yet. I have some great reviews, but they are coming from family so take what you will from that. The book is tentatively called Jewish Messiah, and the cover is still in progress as well. One title I played around with is something I might borrow from an old Wishbone Ash tune: The King Will Come. As I sat in church this Palm Sunday, I decided I wanted to offer the chapter on Jesus's Entrance into Jerusalem, because in trying to relay the significance of that historical event, I decided to make a comparison to what a Mariner fan feels when King Felix takes the mound at Safeco Field. Unfortunately, we don't know how long that feeling will continue, as Felix is indeed not the dominant pitcher he once was. But as I prepare for entering the Safeco Field Temple on Opening Day (my own very first opening day in fact, outside of Wrigley Field), it seemed perfect that this post should be titled The King Will Come.
What follows is a sneak preview of the chapter on that first Palm Sunday. Hope you enjoy it!
The conquering hero enters Jerusalem
Warning: Sports analogies
Biblical prophecy week began the very next day, six days before Passover. There is already a crowd of Jesus fans gathered in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem – folks who sought the opportunity to see both Jesus and Lazarus. This was an event that, if you could you would find a way to sell tickets to – two of the biggest celebrities together in a small town just outside the city.
These folks would not be disappointed, as Jesus is about to make his approach and entrance into the great city of God. As they follow him, they watch as he weeps over Jerusalem. Meanwhile, two disciples follow his instructions and procure him a young colt. Jesus sits on the colt as they ride into Jerusalem. The crowd grows in size as they near Jerusalem and it becomes a procession. Jesus is riding into Jerusalem as the recognized Messiah, as the swelling crowd gets caught up in moment. They cut branches from the palm trees, lay them along the road, wave them as he passes and cry out cheers. They went like this, and as you read them, imagine a rock festival or a giant sporting event, filled with excitement as a great contest is about to begin:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
It was a time that hadn’t been seen in the capital in hundreds of years. Jerusalem was a capital city, with a populace starving for a winner. To draw an analogy, its religion was its pastime, much like baseball was America’s pastime for the 20th century. Like Jerusalem, Washington D.C. was the nation’s capital and for most of that century was starved for a winner. The Washington Senators were trampled upon by fellow American league cities like Boston and their Red Sox, Philadelphia and its Athletics, and of course, arrogant New York and its damned Yankees. The Yankee domination over the Senators was so infuriating a hit musical called Damn Yankees opened in Broadway in 1955. It told the fictional story of the anguish, as a long suffering Senators fan named Joe Boyd makes a Faustian bargain to bring a World Championship ball club to his city. He becomes young Joe Hardy, the power hitter the Senators have always needed to finally crush the Yankees and capture the agonizingly elusive American League Pennant and enter the World Series against whatever team represents the National League
For a long suffering Jew, Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem was not unlike that. The Jewish nation was going to the World Series. They hadn’t been there since the great Davidic dynasty, when King David and his son Solomon made Israel a great nation among the world. Since then, glory was a more distant memory for the Jewish nation than it was for a Senators fan, who by 1960 barely recalled its own great day of greatness, World Series Champions of 1924, led by the great Walter Johnson. Meanwhile, the New York Yankees made the World Series its personal playground, having won 27 titles at the time of this writing. A city’s fan base will get delirious at the idea of an impending World Series. In like manner, Jesus was seen as a sort of second coming of the storied King David – only better.
As they cried out Hosannas to Jesus of Nazareth, riding on a colt, the very astute among them would recognize the fulfillment of scripture, the book of Zechariah to be precise. If people were tweeting in Jesus’s day, this prophecy would have been the trending, most retweeted tweet of the day, at least in the Middle East:
“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! – Zechariah 9
“See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
“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.”
Entering Jerusalem, the entire city was intrigued over what was going on, and ready to become what is called “bandwagon fans”: What’s the buzz all about? Who was this celebrity come to town? Like the most knowledgeable fans of the local team, who follow every exploit and statistic, the Bethany crowd responded with pride to all who asked
“This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee!”
Likely a lot of them also added something like this, to show off their knowledge: “And over there…Lazarus! Jesus raised him from the dead, you know. That’s how good he is! Maybe the best prophet this town has seen since King David! We’re going all the way this year!”
Jesus? Yeah, I’d been hearing about him! Is this going to be our year?
The Pharisees, naturally, were not enamored. Standing in the crowd, hands folded, they murmured their disapproval. “This is accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone mad after him,” they said.
They saw no pennant in Israel’s near future from this Nazarene. They already made it clear, wrongly, like old baseball scouts lampooned in the book and movie Moneyball - settled in their thinking, protective of their turf. They believe they know better. They’ve scouted this Jesus. Bad attitude, has no respect for the rules of the game. And besides - everyone knows: no prophet comes from Galilee. It’s like putting a left hander at third base.
Having had enough, and tired of the unruly decorum, they then shouted their disapproval to Jesus, sounding something like the antihero Shooter McGavin in the comedy Happy Gilmore, who is similarly peeved at the unruly new golf fans who trample the fairways, disrespecting the game and its traditions:
“Teacher!” they shout. “Rebuke your disciples.”
Knowing that scripture ordained rejoicing for just this moment, Jesus demonstrates his firm grasp on prophecy and knowledge of the times. There must be rejoicing. Oh yes. There will be rejoicing. He replies:
“I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out!”
Touche. The new superstar from Galilee can do no wrong.
In Seattle, we have a pitching hero named Felix Hernandez. He’s also nicknamed, simply, “The King” otherwise known and goes by King Felix. The Seattle Mariners have spent a long time mired in mediocrity. We understand what it would have been like to have been a Senators fan. At the time of this writing it has been sixteen seasons since the team has even made a playoff appearance, and there is no hope on the horizon. King Felix is no longer the great pitcher he was a few years ago. But, in his heyday, and still today, on every home game that Felix is scheduled to pitch, everything changes. Felix arrives in Safeco Field, and he is met with a large contingent of screaming, cheering, chanting fans, dressed in yellow, some wearing crowns and robes in honor of their hero. They fill a section of the stadium called the King’s Court and stand while Felix is plying his craft. For one night at least, they are prepared for victory, and as their great champion takes the field, they stand and cheer, shouting their hosannas. Finally, the King steps onto the home field mound – and by his actions, his body language, he makes one thing clear: This Is His Mound - and in doing so, he make a statement to those on the team that opposes or dare challenge that assertion, with every unhittable pitch he throws in their direction: “Not today. Not In My House.”
In like fashion, as Jesus enters Jerusalem with the throng he heads toward the Temple. His Temple. He has seen enough. A temple to often filled with thoughts of murder. A temple filled with form and substance but also an inability and unwillingness to hear God. People are unprepared to offer God proper worship, and those who are in charge of its operations show no concern, as they are too busy profiting by the money changing business to appreciate the entire purpose of this Temple. This is not a place to conduct business and make profits off of the penitents coming to unburden their consciences and get right with God. This is not to be a place to gouge supplicants. Rather, this is to be a house of praise and honor and thanksgiving to God, their great champion. And with his own King’s Court following him, he makes the statement: NOT IN MY HOUSE:
Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers and other profiteers inside the temple, of those who dare squat in His place of worship to gain wealth off those who came to worship Him. His explanation is terse, and to the point.
“It is written,” Jesus said, “My house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”
It is the equivalent of a 100 mph fastball, up and in. They money changers flee. The King assumes the mound. For the next five days, this Temple will be where Jesus sets up court, and the crowd will love it.
Jesus teaches, and as he does, his enemies come to test him. They find that not only are they no match rhetorically for the Son of God, but that they become useful stooges for the lessons he wishes to teach.
For the religious elites, it’s all going badly. The chief priests, largely made up of Pharisees as well as a number of the more elite and cosmopolitan Sadducees, have determined Jesus is to be arrested and put to death. But they fear the crowd. Any attempt to seize Jesus while he sets up shop in his temple will be fiercely resisted by the crowd he refuses to control, but rather only encourages. And suppose he starts doing miracles again? They saw what he did with their financial sector, the moneychangers who they depend on for their cut of the action.
The first thing they do is challenge his assertion that this indeed is his house: in other words, just who do you think you are, to come in here and pull such a stunt.
“By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you the authority to do these things?” they ask.
The need to keep the crowd on his side is crucial for the teaching to continue. He has his King’s court, his true believers. But a large percentage of the crowd are pretty much there to enjoy the show. And there are many who have a different hero than Jesus: John the Baptist in particular. John gathered a very significant number of disciples, and while many drifted toward Jesus after his murder by Herod, a number of them have not been sufficiently convinced yet. Many may be hearing Jesus for the first time. Jesus uses this to his advantage, and in doing so, makes a strong play for their allegiance. But even more importantly, Jesus maintains the upper hand. He doesn’t answer to them. They answer to him:
“I will ask you one question,” he replied. “Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
May Felix similarly Rock HIS house.
For such a finely written piece, well done and of a subject second to none, I could not resist linking the appropriately referenced Wishbone Ash tune, The King Will Come. It wraps the post with a fine ribbon bow for me. Shine on you crazy diamonds!
Welcome back, Rick. A worthy subject for your book. Well done, my friend.
"Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory."
Nice Work Rick!
Of course that's much heavier in Christian content than I am allowed to write -- given that the blog has a sports mission statment and I'm the mediator.
But the parallels were simply brilliant and I enjoyed it very much :- )
Now don't forget to drop a line or two into the threads during the season too! ;- )
I appreciate this community so much. Now....Play ball!
So the moderator has to practice restraint. Doesn't mean we have to. Always civil of course, but I applaud all of the references. I'm huge fan of Felix and an even huger fan of Jesus.
As an aside, as most of you know, my father was a sportswriter and spent a several periods as the M's beat writer for the Trib (he was their first M's beat writer). He had to practice restraint, but the players he spoke with and interviewed did not. The paper, however, tended to censor a lot of this stuff out......even when it came from the players not the writer. Still the same today, perhaps even more so.