Mark 11:1-11 John 12:12-16
Approaching Jerusalem, Jesus paused. It had been another unsettling week for the disciples – a week full of parables they struggled to understand, an unexpected lunch with a tax collector, and a morbid take on this trip to Jerusalem. But seeing the city in the distance and knowing that ahead lay everything that was familiar—their Passover—they breathed a collective sigh of relief. They had made it. It would be downhill from here on in.
Then Jesus asked them “Go into that village, find the colt that has never been ridden, untie it, and bring it to me.” You can imagine, after so many misunderstandings and moments when they just didn’t know what he was doing or what he meant, this request was a gift. It was something they couldn’t get wrong.
Later, coming into the city, with palms waving, cloaks spread across his path, hosannas singing, and the right person hailed as king, they knew they had had a hand in it, and they could believe that all manner of things would be well.
As you prepare for Holy Week, do you wish sometimes that the innocence of their gaze over Jerusalem was ours? When we put ourselves in that story, do we see three crosses in the distance? Would we be glad to get that colt, knowing what we know? Would you feel like a parade knowing how it ends? I might conclude it’s just better not to get involved. The disciples scattered after Jesus was arrested—but maybe they’d have bailed earlier if they knew then what we know now.
Getting that colt is the last request Jesus makes of his followers that they seem to be able to get right. Later, he will ask them to prepare things in the upper room for the Passover. And they will, but the fellowship already is beginning to break down. At table, Jesus announces one will betray him. Later, in a garden he will ask his disciples to stay awake with him and pray, but they will fall asleep. And there’s more of that. I think that’s one of the reasons this story about getting the colt sticks out. After this, their discipleship falters. Their fellowship with Jesus and each other begins to crack.
If the disciples couldn’t find their way through the coming week in one piece, how will we ever do it? Maybe that’s why some church folks avoid those services. Maybe that’s also why those who join in are extra careful with preparations and details. Maybe part of what we are learning to live with all year, but especially this week, is that there are details of our discipleship we don’t like, either. So we show up, try to get it right, and pay attention. We don’t bail.
Jesus is living on borrowed time. And he’s riding on a borrowed colt. But today, we can get the one thing he asks from us, right. We can participate in the only public celebration and honour that Jesus received. We can speak every name of love and holiness and humility and wisdom that belongs to him, whether we sit in front of a screen or in a socially distanced crowd. We can wave our palm branches not because we don’t know what’s coming next, but because we do know and this is the last chance to honour who Jesus was before he died and was risen, and he deserves it.
Jesus lived among us on borrowed time and rode on a borrowed colt. It may be his ministry fares similarly today. Participate. Participate in the story, in the ministry, and feel our humanity in the falling fatigue and grief over what we’ve lost and what isn’t working anymore, and just when we have nothing left, borrow—borrow boldly from eternal promises of hope and grace and abundant life. Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!
Diane Strickland is in her 33rd year as an ordained minister now serving in The United Church of Canada as retired clergy. She is a Certified Community and Workplace Traumatologist, Compassion Fatigue Specialist-Therapist, and Critical Incident Responder in private practice.
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