Over the last year we have been looking at the life of Jesus and have looking at as if we were trying to get at the basic story that would be conveyed in a movie. That is why some weeks we look at the book of John and the next we might be looking at the book of Luke. We have been trying to catch the overall story that comes throughout gospels.
As of today we are 10 days away from Lent. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter where many Jesus followers take time to fast as a way to prepare themselves for the coming of Jesus’ Death on Good Friday. We are entering a time of mourning, reflection and wandering on the traditional church calendar. And our weekly story of Jesus’ life found in these teaching times is also going to be a time of mourning, reflection and wandering. If we go back to the movie metaphor, this is the slow motion scene. The drama and action is about to hit a climax and we are zooming in and slowing down to explore all the gritty details.
The story that was read today is often talked about on Palm Sunday the week before Easter, but there is so much that happens in-between Palm Sunday and Good Friday that we thought we need to get a head start.
I have heard the story of the Triumphant Entry of Jesus talked about at least once for every year I have been alive so I’m almost in danger of glancing over this pivotal moment in our movie. It must be all the construction paper palm branches I’ve seen (or made) over the years.
When I’m looking at any story in the bible I don’t usually like dissecting verses line by line. More often I like to look at the over arching concept in the story. That being said as I was reading the story of Jesus’ Triumphant Entry this year it really struck me as being almost like a creed. I was noticing a lot of smaller concepts and pictures of God jammed into this very short story.
Last week we saw some great community conversation happening with the group when Dallas from Mount Hamilton was speaking and I thought we could open up some discussion time during today’s teaching segment, and see where it might take us. I’m going to share a couple short thoughts and ask you some questions within today’s teaching segment. It will be sort of a teaching/interactive segment mash up.
Here is the first part of the story
28…Jesus … went on toward Jerusalem. 29As he was getting near Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples on ahead. 30He told them, “Go into the next village, where you will find a young donkey that has never been ridden. Untie the donkey and bring it here. 31If anyone asks why you are doing that, just say, `The Lord [e] needs it.’ ” 32They went off and found everything just as Jesus had said. 33While they were untying the donkey, its owners asked, “Why are you doing that?” 34They answered, “The Lord [f] needs it.”
There are a couple things that come to mind for me here. Sometimes God sends us into a situation or a geography that is out of the norm for us. God often takes us out of our comfort zone, and I think that when God does this we need to trust that God is sending us into something he is already involved in. I think God sends us and then waits for us to meet him, he doesn’t just follow us, he runs ahead and meets us there.
I can think of a couple of times this has happened to me:
- Moving to Hamilton was a very scary thing for me. I still remember my first night sleeping in my house. A very loud shouting match was happening outside my window, and I had to turn up my music to sleep. I didn’t know what I had gotten into, I had all kinds of doubts about why God would want me and my family to come to this “scary” neighbourhood. Now I laugh at how scared I was, because I love my street, and I have met so many amazing people in Hamilton.
- This church wasn’t always so diverse or focused down town. Many churches have left the downtowns but God never moved out of the down town. I think when people from the suburbs and towns move back into the cities they are amazed to find that God continued to work down town even when some churches left.
- What is the strangest thing anyone has ever asked to do?
- Have you ever felt like God was asking you to do something that was weird or hard? How did it turn out?
Let’s get back to the story…
35Then they led the donkey to Jesus. They put some of their clothes on its back and helped Jesus get on. 36And as he rode along, the people spread clothes on the road in front of him. 37When Jesus was starting down the Mount of Olives, his large crowd of disciples were happy and praised God because of all the miracles they had seen.
- I think we should use this to remember that God’s Kingdom is not what we think of as a human kingdom. God doesn’t always do things the way we expect him to. I was thinking of the whole “WWJD?” thing when people switched it to What Would Jesus Drive? There were all these cool cartoons of Jesus riding bikes. I was thinking that was a good modern equivalent of Jesus on a donkey. Could you imagine the Prime Minister of Canada showing up to an important event at Parliament on a bicycle? He would peddle up all sweaty with his hair matted down from his dorky helmet and then chaining it up to a tree and walking inside to give a speech? We might wish to see it, but it would still be very surprising and outside of the norm. Forget the prime minister what if the Queen showed up to her 60th Jubilee Procession on a bike? It wouldn’t make any sense. A horse drawn carriage, of course. A limo, sure. A sensible automobile, if need be, but not a bicycle and definitely not a donkey.
- This whole “donkey” thing is actually a prophecy being fulfilled. In Zechariah 9:9 the Jewish people were given a clue as to what to expect when their Messiah/King comes. “Everyone in Jerusalem, celebrate and shout! Your king has won a victory, and he is coming to you. He is humble and rides on a donkey; he comes on the colt of a donkey.” Prophecy isn’t something we often talk about. It falls pretty far from our modern sensibilities. But here we have one being fulfilled and what does an old Prophecy tell us about God? I think it lets us know that God does what he says he is going to do. I think it also lets us know that God has a plan for us. It is hard to trust a plan that you can’t see, so I think it helps us to look back on situations where you can see what God was doing in the past. Using what we learn from hind sight helps us to be confident in the surprises in the future. I think this is important because God isn’t finished building his kingdom, we are still in a very broken world.
- Does anyone have any examples of a time where you couldn’t believe the way something worked out in the end of a situation?
- Is it naive to think this way? Are we just looking for coincidence in randomness?
38They shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory to God.”
- People are fickle. Many of these people are the same people that shout “Crucify Him” a week later. To complicate this even further many of these people become followers of Jesus in the early church recorded in Acts. They are part of the Thousands of people that join the early church. I think this shows that the church has always been a very messy place full contradictions in logic. But despite the broken fickle people in the church, God patiently brings us into a profound relationship with himself and with each other.
- Can you think of any examples of huge public opinion changes? This could be in the church, in politics, in culture, in yourself.
39Some Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, make your disciples stop shouting!” 40But Jesus answered, “If they keep quiet, these stones will start shouting.”
- I have always loved this phrase. I actually made a whole series of art in University on the idea of Trees and Rocks praising God. As an artist I was excited about the idea of inanimate objects emitting praise.
- I think this also fits into our ideas of looking for moments of beauty and spiritual reflection and authentic praise in popular music, art and movies. If the rocks can cry out then surely artists made in the image of God might be compelled to share some truth and praise their creator as well (possibly without even knowing it).
- Why does God need to be praised? If someone is so great why does he need me to tell Him?
- What are some of the most unexpected places you have experienced a sense of awe at God?
41When Jesus came closer and could see Jerusalem, he cried 42and said:
It is too bad that today your people don’t know what will bring them peace! Now it is hidden from them. 43Jerusalem, the time will come when your enemies will build walls around you to attack you. Armies will surround you and close in on you from every side. 44They will level you to the ground and kill your people. Not one stone in your buildings will be left on top of another. This will happen because you did not see that God had come to save you. [g]
- One thing I can see in Jesus when looking at this segment of the story is that Jesus is emotionally upset at people not working towards peace, not recognizing what the source of peace is. I think we need to always work hard at not trivializing what peace is and to be willing to examine things in our own culture and our own lives that might be fighting against God’s Peace. Just like the people Jesus was talking to we often trust in our own systems, our walls, governments, army, social security, etc… to protect us to bring us peace. Any of those things might bring stability, or order to a society but that might not be the same thing as peace.
- What qualifies as Peace?
- What should we be doing to bring peace?
- God’s Kingdom is often called a “Kingdom of Peace,” how do we not be blind to that Kingdom?