Ride the colt

It was a strange thing that Jesus told the disciples to do: Go to the village up ahead and borrow a colt that had never been ridden. If anyone asks, say “The Lord needs it.”

Sure.

And then there’s the whole triumphal entry thing, which we still love to reenact. That first Palm Sunday, everyone was cheering, but they all had it wrong. A greater, invisible reality was about to change everything.

Maybe Palm Sunday is getting here at just the right time.

Today, we’re doing things we’ve never done to combat a great, invisible reality we can’t see. It’s strange, humbling, and it’s hard.

But there’s an even greater reality at work.

There’s Jesus himself. The king who chooses to ride, not a warhorse, but a little colt. The conquering hero who wins by losing, who saves by dying.

Strange as it might seem, the best thing we can do is ride with him.

Question of authority

This week is Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while excited crowds waved palm branches and shouted “Hosanna!” (Save us!).

For the first time, Jesus accepted the crowds’ adoration and their proclaiming him as the king.

But Jesus didn’t head to the palace for a coronation, he headed to the temple to clean house. In the only act of violence he ever committed, he drove out the currency exchangers and the sacrifice sellers.

The religious leaders asked, “Who gave you the authority to do these things?” It was a fair question. The religious leaders’ job was to uphold practices that God had founded a millennium before. The only one with the authority to overturn those things was God.

Which is why Jesus went to the temple (where God resided) and not the palace (where the king resided.)

So, the question this Sunday is one of authority. Who has authority to come into your place and clean house?  Have you let Jesus have that kind of authority over your life? Has he cleaned up lately? Ever?

Jesus cannot be your helper, or your moral example, or a nice teacher. He claimed to be God. If he’s not turning things over and setting things straight, is he really God to you?

The Palm Sunday route

Three times in my life I’ve had the joy of walking the traditional Palm Sunday route in Jerusalem, down the Mount of Olives to the Kidron Valley below. Across the valley is the Temple Mount. The temple is no longer there, of course, destroyed in the first century. But the view is still spectacular. You can’t help but be filled with wonder as you imagine what it was like to be in the crowd on the first Palm Sunday.

That day, Jesus was a master of event planning. He orchestrated every detail for maximum effect. He knew that by accepting the crowd’s adoration he was implicitly accepting the title of conquering king. He knew this would force the hand of the religious leaders. They would have to make him king or kill him.

Like he had done many time before, Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him to the places he planned to go. He told them to procure a little colt which didn’t belong to them, and which had never been ridden, and bring it back to him.

His instructions didn’t make sense, yet the disciples obeyed.

This Sunday, we’ll celebrate and wave palm fronds and reenact the triumphal entry, just like some of us have done since we were kids. Yet this isn’t just child’s play. Jesus has called us to be part of his great drama of redemption and transformation.

Walking the Palm Sunday route with Jesus is still a joy, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Sometimes the instructions don’t make sense. Making him king is still a life or death decision. The crowds who cheer you one day may turn on you the next.

Yet Jesus promised to never leave you or forsake you. He still only sends you where he plans to go.

Winning the argument

Sure there are lots of people who say it never happened, but some things are undeniable:

  • The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event in human history.
  • Jesus Christ is the most influential person in history. No other figure in history even comes close. His followers today number about 2.6 billion.
  • The Bible is the most widely read book in history.

And so as we come to the Sunday before Easter, known both as Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday, it makes sense to reflect on the events that catapulted Jesus to unparalleled significance.

We hear every day about conflict in our public discourse—one side shouting down the other. It’s almost seems that each of us thinks our cause is the most important thing going.

And so it should give us pause when we consider the way Jesus handled what really was the most important thing going.

On trial for his life, he did nothing, said almost nothing.

“If you say so,” is all he said to the Roman governor, the one who had the power of set him free.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” were his last words.

On the greatest stage in history, the greatest actor in history chose to say nothing.

Maybe we need to consider the silence of Jesus the next time we’re in an argument with a friend or a loved one. What’s the cost of “winning” our point? What do we gain by ripping someone on social media? The next time we find ourselves insisting on our own way, perhaps we ought to consider whether our position is really all that righteous.

The only righteous person who ever lived was silent in the face of his accusers.

Compared to Jesus, almost no one remembers the words of other famous people.

But the silence of Jesus, not to mention his word, still stands.