Sunday July 19, 2009 | Greg Boyd
After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' say, 'The Lord needs it.' “
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?"
They replied, “The Lord needs it."
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” [a]
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
Jesus and his followers had very different ideas about what would happen when Jesus finally got to Jerusalem. These differences were so serious that everyone abandoned Jesus when his path took him to the cross. It may be tempting to judge Jesus’ followers as short-sighted hypocrites, but Greg challenges us with the question of whether we really would do differently under similar circumstances.
For weeks now we’ve been marking Jesus’ progress towards Jerusalem. There has been much anticipation both by Jesus and his followers. However, Jesus and his followers have very different expectations regarding the events that were soon to come. Greg described two different prophecies that Jesus fulfills in this passage. Both of them come from the book of Zechariah. In Zechariah 9:9 we read about the anticipation of a king coming who is righteous and brings salvation but is also lowly and riding on a donkey. But a bit further in Zechariah (12:10) there is a more somber foretelling when God speaks about being “pierced” and mourned for like one would mourn for an only child.
Greg described how Jesus understood himself as the fulfillment of both of these prophecies but his followers only seemed to understand the prophecy about a victorious king coming to Jerusalem on a donkey. The crowd of followers rejoiced and praised God in loud voices thankful for the miracles they had seen. However, the Pharisees didn’t join in with the followers of Jesus. Instead they challenged Jesus to quiet the followers down. It is here that Jesus responded with his memorable words about the rocks crying out if his followers do not.
These same followers who were eager to see Jesus coming into Jerusalem as king and Lord will be among those who shout “crucify him!” within a week’s time. Their expectations of Jesus are one-sided, they want the victorious and righteous king that will free the Jews and overturn the Roman oppressors. But they don’t see the other prophecy about the suffering messiah who must be pierced. So they turned on Jesus when it seemed that he was not the one who was coming in power to deliver Israel.
As Greg pointed out, this is all fairly straightforward to us as we read the New Testament thousands of years later. We might be tempted to judge these followers of Jesus as hypocrites since they seemed so loyal at one point and then so unfaithful at another. It’s important for us to recognize that even Jesus’ closest disciples failed him. They all turned out to be hypocrites to one degree or another. It would be a bit preposterous and arrogant to think we’d do any better than they had we been there ourselves.
Greg challenged us to examine ourselves with the following questions: Do I enthusiastically praise God when I think God is leading me toward victory but lose conviction and passion when sacrifice and pain seem to be the result of following Jesus? In what ways have I been like the followers of Jesus who were strongly supportive when things seem to be going well, but fall to the wayside when things get tough? Do I imagine myself willing to die for my faith, but fail to “die” in the little ways that are necessary to LIVE for him?
When we face questions like this, if we are honest, we recognize the great distance between where we stand and where we’d like to be. Greg reminded us that beating ourselves up over this is no help. Instead, the Bible calls us to confess our shortcomings to God and each other, rest in God’s love for us, and from that place of peace and rest, we can begin to cultivate new practices that fit with where God is calling us to be.