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Monday, 6 April 2009

Monday in Holy Week - The Entry into Jerusalem

This isn't being preached, at least, not this year! I wrote it in 1996 for our Monday in Holy Week service, and was asked to produce something for an on-line group, so looked for it and copied it. So I thought I would also post it here.

So, Jesus comes to Jerusalem in triumph.

He, and the disciples,
Have spent the night with Mary, Martha and Lazarus,
at that home in Bethany.
He loves them, so much.
Dear Martha,
never happy unless she is bustling bout doing for him,
getting irritated at Mary’s doglike devotion.
Mary, extravagant almost to the point of madness,
with the nard she was supposed to be saving for her marriage,
poured out over his head like that last night.
And her almost unfeminine interest in his teaching,
her ability to sit and listen and learn by the hour.
And Lazarus, totally unable to do enough for Jesus since he was raised from the dead.

And now it is time to move on.
Into Jerusalem.
It isn't the first time Jesus has been there.
On the contrary,
he has been there many times,
the first time being when he was a baby.
But this will be the last visit.
This time,
there won't be the teachers in the Temple falling all over themselves to enlighten him.
This time,
there won't be the vast crowds waiting to listen to him -
or if there are, the priests will soon move them on.
This visit promises nothing but pin and death.
Yet it must be done.

Long ago words echo from Zechariah:
"Behold your King comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey."

It never made any sense before.
Kings don't ride on donkeys!
Kings ride on war-horses, richly caparisoned.
Kings ride in carriages, pulled by six milk-white Arab stallions.
Kings are carried in litters on the shoulders of Nubian bearers.
A King on a donkey -
the picture is ridiculous.
Donkeys are for the elderly, for the infirm.
Donkeys are for carrying wood or peat in creels on their backs.
Donkeys are for children, for pregnant women.

And yet, and yet.
Today, Jesus will ride on a donkey.
He even knows which donkey.
It is in the next hamlet down the road.
A mare, with a young colt.
They sw it on their way to Bethany,
and stopped and said "Hello" to it.
The owner's a friend of theirs -
he'll lend it willingly enough.

So the disciples are sent off to borrow the donkey,
and, back they come with it, colt duly at foot.
And anxious owner, too, who doesn't mind lending it,
but wants to go with it.

Jesus climbs on.
Hmmm -
his feet nearly touch the ground.
Just as well, perhaps -
it doesn't feel very steady.
The mare shifts, uneasily.
This isn't her usual rider.
But she trusts Jesus, instinctively,
and lets him feel comfortable with her.

And so they set off.
A strange procession.
Jesus, on the donkey
and the disciples and followers on foot beside him.
Almost a young procession, really.
There's James and John,
Peter and Andrew,
all of the Twelve -
even Judas, looking sulky.
He still hasn't forgiven Jesus for snubbing him like that last night
when he pointed out - mildly -
that Mary shouldn't have wasted the nard like that.
Mary and Martha and Lazarus are there, too,
and the donkey's owner and his daughter.
Quite a procession.

And there are other groups of pilgrims going to Jerusalem for the festival.
Others on the road.
And somehow, nobody quite knows how,
they join up with Jesus' group.
Many of them have heard of him -
some have even heard him speak.

A group of boys rushes on ahead,
down into Jerusalem,
to announce that Jesus is coming!
The people, mostly holidaymakers,
come out to have a look.
Yes, that's him, over there, look -
yes, the one on a donkey!
Some say he's the Messiah, or a prophet.
Maybe he is.
Why not?
It is Passover, after all.

Who started the cheering?
Nobody knows.
Maybe it was one of the Twelve,
maybe even Peter.
Or maybe a child in the crowd.
But the cheers increase in volume.
"Hosanna!
Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord."
"Hosanna in the Highest."
And they throw their cloaks into the road for the donkey to walk on.
And they tear branches off the trees to help line the route.

Now they are approaching Jerusalem.
The pilgrims and holidaymakers are still cheering.
It's a day for rejoicing, after all.
The end of the journey is in sight.
The pilgrims have been travelling for days, some of them,
ad are looking forward to getting to the inns and relaxing.
Some of them will be meeting family they haven't seen for some years.
So it's easy to cheer.
Its easy to throw your cloak in the road for the donkey to tread on.
It's easy to be carried along with the crowd.

But Jesus knows that this visit to Jerusalem will be his last.
He will not leave the city.
This crowd, which is cheering him today,
will be baying for his blood at the end of the week.
Without noticing the contradiction.

The disciples are relaxed, enjoying the attention.
But underneath there are shadows.
They know they are in danger.
They know that Jesus is convinced he will be killed,
yet has insisted on going to Jerusalem anyway.

But for now, as they enter the city, they are relaxed and amused.
Let us leave them like that,
for the storm clouds are gathering,
and they will not disperse until the day of Resurrection.

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