“It is hard work, the work before us this week. If Jesus’ first followers found themselves wishing to go back to the good days before the unpleasantness began or, like us, jumping ahead to the glory they might have imagined lay ahead, like them we have to remain here for a while. For this hour, to this place, this coming trouble - this is where Jesus journeys, and all his disciples, like it or not, must journey with him.
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11 (GNT)
As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives. There Jesus sent two of the disciples on ahead with these instructions: “Go to the village there ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied up with her colt beside her. Untie them and bring them to me. And if anyone says anything, tell him, ‘The Master needs them’; and then he will let them go at once.”
This happened in order to make come true what the prophet had said:
“Tell the city of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you!
He is humble and rides on a donkey
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
So the disciples went and did what Jesus had told them to do: they brought the donkey and the colt, threw their cloaks over them, and Jesus got on. A large crowd of people spread their cloaks on the road while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds walking in front of Jesus and those walking behind began to shout, “Praise to David's Son! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise be to God!”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was thrown into an uproar. “Who is he?” the people asked.
“This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee,” the crowds answered.
Today’s devotion reminds us of where we are headed as we approach what we have come to call Holy Week. It begins with the triumphal entry to Jerusalem and Jesus riding a donkey to the joyous shouts of children and adults alike saying “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” But even in the midst of the parade and the celebration, the shadow of darkness appears to let us know that the joy will be only momentary. Matthew’s gospel tells us that as Jesus comes, the city is shaken. Translated variously as “in turmoil,” “thrown into an uproar,” and “stirred up,” we must understand this is not about people being excited. It’s about people being disturbed, worried, fearful. And if that’s not enough, according to Matthew’s gospel, Jesus proceeds from the parade to the Temple where he stirs up more trouble by overturning the tables of the money changers.
Most of us often miss what happens in between these two Sundays of Palm Sunday and Easter, between the shouts of “Hosanna” on one end, and “He is risen” on the other. We miss the fact that there is much trouble for Jesus in between. We may happily avoid it, but to do so is to miss the deeper meaning of who Jesus is. Jesus faces the darkness and fear head on, and so must we. If we are to be his disciples, we must look upon his sacrifice to see the depth of his love. As we prepare to enter the coming week with Jesus, even as we have entered his journey in Lent, let us not be afraid to go there with him - from the Mount of Olives to the hill called “the skull.”