The Back Story
Please read Luke 19:28-38
If you read the gospel of John the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem sounds like a flash mob, something that just sort of happens. John says “The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So, they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord-- the King of Israel!" Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it.
When I was younger, I could have bought that, I could have accepted that, I could have believed that. Not anymore. I know now that there is more involved to things seemingly as simple as a parade. There is more involved with everything in life. Everything I can think of has a back story, including Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
Fortunately, we have more than one gospel to draw on for insight into the life and teaching of Jesus. In this case Luke gives us more of the details we need. Luke reminds us of the back story, that being a follower of Jesus requires from time to time some grunt work. In Luke we read, When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
Wow. Does it interest any of you that Jesus sends his disciples out to do this? It is a bit bold don’t you think. Put yourself in the shoes of this animal’s owner, or God forbid, the neighborhood vigilante. How would that hit you? This parade, as described by Luke, is a far more complex enterprise than the gospel of John suggests.
Jesus authorizes his disciples to take bold action in his name that others are likely to question. “If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.”
Wow. We are authorized. We are sent. The Lord’s purpose is fulfilled through us. There is more to this Palm Sunday story than we sometimes think. On the surface it is just a momentary parade, but like everything else in life there is a back story, in this case a reminder to his disciples that they are authorized to act.
Did you know that? Did you remember that? Are you prepared to check in and get your assignment for the way in which you will assist in equipping Jesus’ ministry in the world? Or did you just saunter by to watch a parade?
There is nothing wrong with the latter, and there are certainly moments in our life when simply watching from the sideline and offering our cheer is enough. But for most of us, most weeks, we are called to remember that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem didn’t just happen. There was a back story. Some preparation was involved, including the acquisition of the animal on which he rode.
If we have enlisted as Jesus followers, and are not simply observers, then there is some work to do both before and after the hosannas. Somebody’s got to get the donkey, and somebody’s got to get it back and a whole lot of other stuff. Justice and joy and health and hope don’t just happen. It takes some work. But hear this good news: you are authorized. Jesus sends you. Jesus empowers you to act in bold ways in his name to fulfill his purpose. You—his disciples.
Richard L. Spleth
Visiting Regional Minister
The full Lenten Devotional Booklet can be downloaded by clicking HERE.