… then they brought the colt to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 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, saying, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!" - Luke 19:35-38
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, and once again we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for what would be the last week of his three year ministry. Luke paints a colorful, lively scene for his arrival: a bedecked donkey, a carpet of coats, and plenty of glad shouts from the crowd—all signs of the people’s joy.
Many a preacher has made much of the supposed hypocrisy of this crowd, suggesting that the same fickle folk who cheer him here will also jeer him on his Friday-cross, less than a week later. But I’m not so sure.
I’m more inclined to take this moment of gladness at its face value. After all, most of these cheering folk were not dialed-in to the rather behind-the-scenes plot to betray Jesus (Luke 22:2) and many of them would surely mourn as he made his way to Golgotha (Luke 23:27, 48 – “beating their breasts,” an ancient sign of grief).
No, it is what it is: the people’s glad reception of one who had raised their hopes and shown them the humble power of God. In fact, I am moved by their deliberate efforts to make a way for Jesus into their city. They secure him a ride, they shed clothing, they lend their voices, all on relatively short notice. With what they have, they make a way fitting for the one who comes calling. O that we would be so responsive to the movements of Grace in our gates.
Someone once said that the most important thing in learning to pray is simply to keep at it. (See Luke 11:5-13 for Jesus’ silly story on the matter.) “Be importunate,” writes Frederick Beuchner, “not because you have to beat a path to God’s door before he’ll open it, but because until you beat the path maybe there’s no way of getting to your door.” Prayer may finally be less about getting God’s attention as it is about getting ours.
It is our bold belief as Christians that the Jesus of history is now the Christ of faith, that he who entered those historic Jerusalem gates so long ago now lives and loves with the Father through power of the Spirit. Therefore, we should not be surprised when, through some passage of scripture, in some moment of prayer, at some ‘coincidental’ crossing of paths or during some providential moment only later recognized, we sense our Christ making an entrance into our gates. He entered then; he enters still.
The question this Palm Sunday is not so much whether God still comes calling, only whether we are ready to welcome him in—donkeys, cloaks, and all.