Day Thirty-Eight of Lent

April 12, 2019
By MB Discipleship

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” – Matthew 21:1-5

Every once in a while, a celebrity makes the news for damaging their “brand” by acting like a jerk, and their manager or PR representative has to go into damage control. Whether an athlete, politician, or actor, celebrities sometimes crumble under the weight of expectations, or fame, or sometimes even just old-fashioned ego. Some actors speak of becoming famous as becoming “public property” and needing to section off parts of life they’re willing to share for consumption and parts of life they keep private with family and friends. How do we expect people in the public eye to act?

Jesus’ disciples were frequently baffled by his choices, and he was frequently the subject of talk, debate, and crowds. People sought him out even when he tried to get a bit of quiet time alone: “when he saw the crowds he had compassion, because they were harassed, like sheep without a shepherd.” Still, he often surprised those closest to him, engaging when they expected him to withdraw, withdrawing when they expected him to be accessible, healing people of low status, eating with corrupt people, meeting in secret with curious religious leaders afraid of losing their position.

So Jesus, knowing the scriptures since he was young, chooses to enter Jerusalem like scriptures say a king will. Imagine the parade for a winning team, someone sitting in a convertible holding the trophy. Finally, things will go well – right?

A few days later, Jesus will be beaten. He will stand in front of Pontius Pilate as Pilate asks, “what is truth?” He will fall under the weight of a wooden beam, and a stranger will be dragged into history by being at the wrong place at the wrong time and will be forced to carry the execution instrument the rest of the way up the hill.

So what’s the takeaway? Sometimes it seems foolish to give away seeming advantage. Sometimes hopes are high, and then dashed – because we aim our hopes at the wrong outcome. “If Jesus hadn’t gone from the triumphal entry to challenge the profitable moneychangers operating at the temple, maybe he wouldn’t have brought this trouble on himself” – surely someone in Jerusalem had that thought. “If only he’d been willing to tell Pilate, ‘of course I’m only a man!’ maybe he’d still be alive” – surely one of his disciples had that thought.

It’s hard to face the ways our values, however well-intentioned, can diverge from God’s self-sacrificial love. “Keep your head down, play it safe,” or, “you have possession of the ball, you have the advantage, help lead a revolution against this Empire that has no right to be here!” Either way, Jesus appears to fumble opportunity. Jesus appears to challenge the wrong people, to ignore opportunity, and to fail to defend himself well.

In the Kingdom of God, decision-making doesn’t always seem to make sense on paper. What values shape your decisions? Are you willing to look silly to others in order to follow Jesus – because you value, you love, what others can’t see? Are you willing to take a loss for God? Is there anything standing between you and the cross?

*Are you ready to release good strategy and trust God’s wisdom and power?