Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Day 35-April 1
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethpage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
All four gospel writers agreed that this is a foundational story, because they all include it.
Mark’s version is clear in its irony and juxtaposition of a triumphal entry, befitting a king, but on a donkey, a beast of burden. Some commentators suggest that it’s really not that big a deal. Some might have recognized this as a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophesy (Zec. 9:9), and others share the insight that a colt or an ass was the animal prices rode when they wished to signify peaceful intentions, and still others point to the inclusion of the donkey and Jesus’ instructions regarding its use as the suggestion that everything is happening in accordance with God’s will and intent as its significance.
So much will change, and so quickly. This festive, almost humorous and special scene will go bad so quickly. Shame and suffering will take the place of the carnival-like atmosphere. We know how this is going to turn out, and it’s intolerable to think about it if all one considers is the humiliation and the shame. But, as commentator Margaret Farley suggests, the shadow of Good Friday transforms the light of Palm Sunday, for only with both of them together do we learn that dignity is sustained with integrity; that the forces of false judgment and suspicion, servile fear and violence will be transformed because of the love that was not broken.
It is a bittersweet thing to reflect upon the highs and lows of your Son’s ministry. The festival atmosphere of Palm Sunday, soon to arrive, will so swiftly change. Life is fragile, O God, we know you know that. Help us to sing you praise, speak a word of truth and justice, act with compassion, knowing that you are a part of each day’s joys and challenges. Amen.