Friday of Advent I – Luke 19:28-40

28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works 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!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

While attending the seminary, I was assigned to field work at a very large parish in the metro area. It was pastored by a wise man who had a deep understanding of people, including me. This was in the days of the first gulf war and there was a considerable apocalyptic fervor running through that community, and it was affecting the members of his parish. My supervisor pulled my friend and fellow seminarian David and me aside one day. “You two are going to teach a Bible study on eschatology,” he said. We looked at each other and gulped. Eschatology or “last things” is a difficult subject with many pitfalls for the instructor. He went on, “I need you to counter some of the ideas that are floating around out there. They won’t like it, but you are graduating in a few months and won’t be around here anymore, so you can say what needs to be said.”

He was honest about it; he was manipulating us and them. The Gospel, and Luke in particular, want you to know that Jesus was not some naïve country bumpkin who got caught up in Jerusalem politics and a cruel imperial justice system. Jesus had this all planned out. It is not a miracle that the disciples found this donkey where they did or that the owners let them take it. Jesus had already arranged it, even giving a passphrase to the disciples to utter so the owners would know it was legitimate.

By riding in on a donkey, Jesus was manipulating the events of Holy Week. He was stirring up messianic expectations. He was fulfilling a prophecy that almost everyone would have known (Zech. 9:9). He knew this would trigger a response from the Pharisees. His response to them only makes them more afraid and willing to move against Him. That is what he wanted after all. He had come to die on a cross on Friday afternoon. He was goading them into taking that step.

Our world often feels like it is coming apart at the seams. I read an article today which said that something like 20% of healthcare workers have left the field since the beginning of the pandemic. Their stories of exhaustion and despair feel like symptoms of a world which is stretched to the breaking point. Recent riots, acts of violence, racial unrest, and world events all contribute to this feeling. Know this: The Jesus who once stirred up Jerusalem so He would die for your sins and rise for your justification is still running this planet. He has not told me all the details, but you should trust Him. He has promised you that all things work for the good of those who love him.

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