Explore more on Bible Gateway
Rev. Melanie Homan
March 20, 2016
29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 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. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” 41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” 45 Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; 46 and he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of robbers.”
A very pregnant Mary, with a soon to be born Jesus, rode into Bethlehem on a donkey, marking the very beginning of Jesus’ life with humility. The very last week of Jesus’ life finds him riding into Jerusalem on another donkey, so marking the very end of Jesus’ life also with humility. Now why was a donkey a symbol for humility and peace? I’m not one hundred percent sure. I always equate donkeys with stubbornness myself. But, this is what the Bible commentaries tell us. If a king road in on a horse, he was on his way to war or exhibiting his pride. If he road in on a donkey, he came in peace. This was a “thing” in ancient times. King David rode a donkey, and his son Solomon rode a donkey to his coronation as king. And, since they believed Jesus was the one who would fulfill the words of the prophets, it makes sense that Jesus, too, would come in peace on a donkey.
The people were excited! Crying out their “Hosannas!” Lining up along the street to welcome the one who was going to overturn the powers that be. Some of the people hoped that he would rise up against Rome and bring them into battle. But, Jesus does not come riding into Jerusalem on a war horse. He comes in on a donkey instead, one he doesn’t even own…“borrowed”.
The people celebrate his arrival. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!” Hosanna means – save us. “Save us! Save us from Rome! Save us from the oppression of poverty!” Little did they know their cries should have been, “Save us from ourselves.” For, in just a week’s time, the crowds go from adoring their teacher to abandoning him.
This is the final week of Jesus’ life – where the human Jesus and the divine Christ come together in stark contrast. We see the broad range of human emotion that exists for Jesus. He comes into Jerusalem amid the celebrations of the people. And, before we know it, he is weeping. Not just a tear or two that he quickly wipes from his eyes – he’s WEEPING. “Oh Jerusalem! If only you knew on this day of all days the things that lead to peace.” He grieves that we don’t see, we don’t understand, that the warhorse doesn’t lead to peace. He weeps for the people! And then he goes into the temple and he gets ANGRY. He isn’t angry at the Romans, their “oppressors”. He’s angry with the religious officials who are exploiting the people. The temple had become a den of thieves who were benefitting from their cozy relationship with Rome. Meanwhile, the masses paid for sacrifices they couldn’t afford because they were trying to be faithful. The house of God had been corrupted in the worst possible way. And Jesus was ANGRY.
It is impossible to recall the events of Jesus’ last week and not make comparisons to today. People still look for someone to come in on a warhorse, leading us into war, believing that somehow violence and intimidation will bring about what God desires for us. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. I think he weeps over us now. If only we knew the things that lead to peace. We should know. We’ve heard Jesus’ teachings often enough to know that God’s peace is grounded in love. It’s about donkeys INSTEAD of horses. And in that way, he’s also a little stubborn. Jesus won’t back down from his insistence on what brings peace. But, we somehow become part of the crowd that either fades away in silence while Jesus is killed or actively turns against him and joins with the frenzied group crying out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
From joy, to weeping, to anger, Jesus moves on to love. And LOVE is how his last week ends. That’s the alternative for us. We can join in the cries for vengeance, we can quietly sneak off and try to stay out of the fray, OR we can stick around and stand as witnesses to a third way – we can insist on living out of love. Not just here at church, but in every aspect of our individual and communal lives.
In a few minutes, we are going to hear the words that Jesus said to his disciples in these last days of his life. They are the words, according to the gospel of John, that Jesus said to his disciples after he washed their feet and broke bread with them before Good Friday. As McLaren writes, “On that unforgettable night, after the holy supper, after Jesus went to a garden to pray, after his disciples feel asleep, after Judas came to betray Jesus with a kiss, after Peter pulled out his sword and Jesus told him to put it away, after Jesus was taken into custody, after his disciples ran away, Jesus was whipped. They say he received thirty-nine lashes, one fewer than the forty lashes that constituted a death sentence (154).”
When Jesus came into Jerusalem, he did not come riding in on a warhorse ready for battle. He came in on a donkey, showing us a different way to live. I’m reminded of this when I hear his words – that in the midst of betrayal by his friends and violence from the authorities, Jesus does not waver in his message of love. On the verge of being killed, he insists on love. On the verge of being killed, he keeps on teaching. He keeps trying, one last time, to help his disciples understand. 39 lashes. 39 sayings. Hear these final teachings of Jesus.
- If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you, too, must wash each other’s feet.
- I Give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.
- This is how everyone will know you are my disciples, when you love each other.
- Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.
- I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
- Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
- I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
- If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
- I won’t leave you as orphans, I will come to you.
- Whoever has my commandments and keeps them loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.
- Whoever loves me will keep my word. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
- The Companion, or the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.
- Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you.
- I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper.
- Remain in me, and I will remain in you.
- A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine.
- I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will produce much fruit.
- If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
- As the Father has loved me, I, too, have loved you. Remain in my love.
- This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.
- There is no greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
- I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you.
- I assure you that it is better for you that I go away. If I don’t go away, the Companion won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
- I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now. However, when the Spirit of Trust comes, he will guide you in all truth.
- Soon you won’t be able to see me; soon after that, you will see me.
- Ask and you will receive, so that your joy will be complete.
- I left the Father and came into the world. I tell you again: I am leaving the world and returning to the Father.
- I have said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.
- This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.
- Holy Father, watch over them in your name, the name you gave me, that they will be one just as we are one.
- Make them holy in truth. Your word is truth.
- As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
- I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me.
- I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.
- I’ve made your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them.
- PUT YOUR SWORD AWAY!
- My kingdom doesn’t originate from this world.
- I was born and came into the world for this reason: To testify to the truth.
- Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice.
 Brian McLaren, We Make the Road By Walking, Jericho Books, 2014, page 154.
 Brian McLaren, We Make the Road By Walking, Jericho Books, 2014, page155-157..