From my journal, Monday, April 18, 2011:
It was Palm Sunday. Our pastor was preaching about the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. As usual I was doing (at least) two things with his words. I was standing them up against the plumbline of Scripture. And I was trying to translate them into pictures so I could see what he was talking about.
He was using the account from “Dr. Luke.” I was surprised that our pastor believes just as my non-Christian brother does that Jesus arranged the details of the Entry–and by extension His death and resurrection. In fact he used my brother’s word “staged” at least three times. (Well, in one case he said, “The donkey and the parade appear to be staged.”)
He said, “He’s critiquing the Roman imperial power with a pre-arranged parade mocking that power. He presents himself as Messiah not on a warhorse but on a donkey.”
Our pastor said part of Christ’s satirical response to Rome was his assembling his disciples, whom he admitted included more than the Twelve by that point, to meet and greet him at the gate of the city. But his description of them made them sound pathetic, like a handful of misfits–the few, the poor, the rabble.
I wanted to shout (with all due respect), “It wasn’t like that at all. The Bible says ‘The whole city was stirred!’ By that time most of Jerusalem believed: ‘The common people heard Him gladly.’ They followed Him everywhere, so thick a crowd He couldn’t heal them all, mobbing Him so he had no time to eat and rest. So many believed–at least 5,000 men, plus women and children, including two executive elders of the religious establishment–that the leaders who hadn’t joined them were scared of them. The Pharisees even said, “The whole world has gone after him!” They couldn’t get through the crowds to arrest him secretly and they didn’t dare criticize his forerunner John.”
In my mind I backed up to Jesus’ instructions to his men to go get the donkey. Our pastor downplayed it, said Jesus had pre-arranged that, too, working it out ahead of time with the donkey’s owner: ‘When a couple of my guys come tomorrow and ask for it. . .” To me, it made Jesus sound shady, like a pretender to the throne trying to dupe people into believing he’s the rightful king.
But the text denies it. Why, when the disciples came to untie the donkey, would the owner have asked what they were doing if he had already been prepped about the event?
Our pastor downplayed the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 too. I kept silently willing him to bring it up, the glorious point, focus, center of the entire day–maybe the entire Bible:
The little donkey was in place, right where its owner had tied it of his own free will, all unknowing that this was THE donkey, the one designed and destined before the foundation of the world to fulfill prophecy and play one of the most important roles in all history.
Jesus Christ tells his men, the men who respect and love Him, who think, who hope, He is the One–Jesus tells them, “Go down this street, turn the corner. This is what you’ll see, this is what you are to say. Bring the donkey to Me.”
“BRING THE DONKEY TO ME!” It sends thrills up my spine. Even fishermen must have known what that meant, must have begun to put it all together. This must be– He must be going to– That means He IS–
And when the owner says, “Why are you untying my donkey?” (“Hey, what are you doing? That’s mine!”) and the men repeat the words they have been given, “The Lord needs him!”– WOW! HALLELUJAH CHORUS!
The donkey man didn’t have to ask, “Uh, which lord is that?” His jaw dropped, he just stared after them breathing, “It’s HIM! It’s TIME! MY OWN LITTLE DONKEY IS GOING TO CARRY THE MESSIAH INTO JERUSALEM TO SET UP HIS KINGDOM! HE HAS SELECTED MY DONKEY, OF ALL THE DONKEYS IN HISTORY, FOR THAT SUPREME HONOR! WOW!” (or the equivalent of “Wow!” in Aramaic.)
It was not about following a script to make something happen–except a script written before time began. It was about Jesus just living, being Himself and seeing history come together, all the pieces fitting into place, bringing about the fullness of time. Marveling Himself as it all unfolded.
The fullness of time for His birth. The fullness of time for the revelation of who He is, presenting Himself to Israel as her long-expected Savior and Deliverer. Just like the fullness of time for the end of the age which we are seeing falling into place all around us.
Of course our pastor didn’t say any of this. What he did say sounded thin to me. He said Jesus was “intentionally getting ready to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy.” Yes, but He didn’t have to race around behind the scenes painting sets and arranging furniture. (If he had to do that to make people think He was the Messiah, it must have been difficult to arrange his own birth in Bethlehem under the Roman occupation of Israel in the days of Herod.)
No, it was flowing into place. He didn’t have to tell a man, “Tie your donkey over there at such-and-such a time.” He knew that man (and that little donkey!) intimately because He had created them. He knew where that colt would be.
If He predestined events, it was in eternity past. Every atom, every cell, so that not a jot or tittle was out of place or out of control. It is all, ALL, in His will. Ultimately His permissive will works together with our free will to accomplish His overarching sovereign will and purposes.
It could not be otherwise, if He is God. If a single minute “deviation” is not under His control, it would effect huge changes which would require a Plan B. And Jesus Christ has never had to, never will have to, scratch His head in surprise and bewilderment and come up with a Plan B.
P.S.(2018): As you can imagine, Jerry and I don’t attend that church any more.