Reading. Luke 19: 29-38
Holy Week is a decisive week. It is the one week out of the whole of human history, of which Christians possess a detailed diary. What could be more right, then, than to commemorate the last week of Christ’s earthly life?
The story from the Gospel of St. Luke is an action story, if ever there was one, and the actions certainly speak loudly when you begin to watch them and think about them.
First of all there was the action of Jesus coming into Jerusalem. Then there was the sending of the disciples to prepare the way, and the use of an animal, the humble donkey. There was action, a great deal of it, as the crowds spread their garments in the way and waved their palms.
The first action which speaks so loudly is that of Jesus actually coming to Jerusalem. He knew that it would be the way of suffering, and yet he ‘steadfastly set his face’ to go to that place. What an act of bravery and commitment this was. Most men in this situation would have gone the other way. But Jesus went straight forward.
The disciples were sent on ahead to prepare the way. I don’t suppose for a moment that they realised the lasting significance of the action as they went to the village and found the donkey tethered with her foal beside her, untied them and brought them to Jesus.
It was the action in using that particular animal, the lowly donkey, on which to enter Jerusalem that gave such significance to this picture. It was a Messiah’s greeting that the crowds gave Jesus as he entered, but he was Messiah on the lowly animal, the beast of burden, and not on some warhorse. The Messiah entered the Messiah’s city, meek and riding on an ass.
The crowds spread their garments in the way. They carpeted the road with their cloaks and some cut branches from the trees to spread in his path. This, in itself, was enough to show how they received him. It was the reception of a king. The words ‘Hosannah to the Son of David’, Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord’, need hardly have been uttered as the crowds ‘spread their garments in the way.
And so it was that the Son of David entered David’s city. Knowing full well that there only suffering was ahead of him and yet he went straight forward.
But if he is to come now, to reign in the hearts of his people now, he still needs us, his disciples, to prepare the way. We may feel that we’re very much like that donkey, useless and hopeless in so many ways, yet the Lord needs us as he needed that lowly animal.
So are we, in this Holy Week, amongst those who are ready, not only to prepare his way, but to greet him when he comes? Remember, it was the same crowd who received him as a King, who were soon to act in a very different way. Soon they were to wave not palms but their fists. Soon they were to shout not ’Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’, but ‘crucify’.
Let us be ready to offer ourselves to carry him into the world into which he still seeks to come. Let us be ready to prepare the way for him. But let us pray that like him, having set ourselves to go straight forward, we may not change our direction, but may receive him as our King until the end of our days. Let us not only speak for him, but to act in all that we do, in his name.
If you have not already done so, let me urge you to do something every day this week. Read the Gospel narratives relating to Holy Week in the order they were written. It will prepare you wonderfully for Easter because, in some small measure, you will have shared in the Passion of our Lord and Master.
LET US PRAY
Father, as the crowds welcomed Jesus
and sang your praises,
we pray that many more will welcome you
into their hearts and lives over the coming year.
We pray for opportunities to spread your good news
and the courage to take them.