This week’s guest blogger is Remco Brommet, Director of True Men, a division of True Identity Ministries.
It is a few days before the Passover and crowds from all over Asia Minor have begun to make their way up to Jerusalem for the great celebration. Jesus and his disciples are also on their way, from Jericho, for what only he knew would be the climax of his ministry. In the hamlet of Bethpage near Bethany, just a little ways outside Jerusalem’s walls, Jesus gives his disciples an unusual order: “Go into the village, and bring me back the unbroken donkey’s colt you’ll find tied up there. If anyone asks you why you are taking it, tell them that the Master has need of it.”
They carry out his order without questioning. Bringing the colt back, they lay their cloaks on it and set Jesus on it. They then reverently spread their cloaks out on the dusty road like a red carpet as Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem to publicly declare to the Jewish establishment that he is the Messiah. As usual, crowds of his followers have figured out that he was there and line the road waving palm branches and shouting the now familiar blessing, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” They are excited because of the wonders they have seen him perform and are eagerly awaiting deliverance from the Roman yoke at the hand of this miracle man. Of course, the Pharisees are there too. Afraid to draw the attention of the Roman security forces, they tell Jesus to rebuke his followers and tell them to quiet down. You know his answer: “I tell you, if these were silent; the very rocks would cry out.”
We see four groups of people in this story of the triumphal entry, each representing a condition of the heart in its response to Jesus. Let’s start with the least open response, and work our way in.
You probably guessed it – the ones least receptive to Jesus are the Pharisees. They react to his entry out of fear that the authorities would see this and blame them for not keeping the peace and that his popular teaching, accompanied by miracles they could not dispute, would challenge their familiar system of rules and beliefs. It is easy to dismiss them as “anti”, the “ones who reject Jesus” at every turn. Surely that’s not us. But how often do we stand in Jesus’ way when he challenges things in us that we have held dear, or reject the nudging at our heart to spend time with him in prayer – perhaps out of fear that he will disrupt the familiar or that we will get behind in our busy schedule? There is a little bit of Pharisee in us when we reduce Christian living to rules of conduct or keep Jesus’ work inside of us at bay out of fear!
Then there are the colt’s owners. All that is written about them is that they asked the disciples why they were taking the colt, just as Jesus said they would. Then they let it go, without asking who Jesus was, what he needed it for, or even if they could help in any way. I see in them the heart of the uninvolved giver. The person who writes a check to Christian charity without getting involved or without the desire to get to know the One to whom they give. They do not reject Jesus but do not welcome him either. They go through the motions of worship. Ever been there? Go to church, maybe even sing, drop a gift in the plate and head home. Service yes, a welcome mat for Christ to make his home in the heart, no.
As he approaches Jerusalem, we meet the crowds. In Luke’s account of the triumphal entry, it is specifically mentioned that they praised God for the mighty works they had seen. Ah – so they are primarily interested in Jesus because of what he did – all the miracles he performed. It is significant that they waved palm branches, which are associated with the Feast of Booths, celebrated each year to remember that their ancestors dwelt in the desert in tents. Significant, because the Jews believed they would celebrate this feast in perpetuity when the Messiah came. So they acknowledge Christ as the Messiah of Judaism, but most likely only because they believed this miracle man could free them from Roman occupation. Jesus seemed to accept their praises, even though they were only interested in him because of what he did, not so much in who he was. A stage of spiritual growth perhaps? The yet immature Christian’s heart turns to God primarily for help, not for intimacy. It is a form of acceptance, a welcome, but an incomplete one. This heart tends to turn away from God and neglect worship and prayer when things go well. Sound familiar? While God most certainly invites us to turn to him in times of trouble, we miss out on the best part of our walk with him if we stop there.
And that brings us to the fourth and final group: his disciples. The twelve who had been with him for most of the past three years, who had learned not to question his orders, and most of all had come to love the man with whom they shared their life. That love showed in their worship. They took off their cloaks, their most valuable clothes, put them on the dirty donkey for Jesus to sit on, and spread them out on the dusty road for Jesus to ride on. In characteristic fashion, Jesus did not enter Jerusalem on a steed with fanfare and soldiers as an earthly king would. Instead, he continued in his simplicity, riding in on an unbroken donkey’s colt, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies about how the Messiah would enter Jerusalem. And even though these disciples did not fully understand the meaning of all this, they did not hesitate to exalt their beloved Rabbi with all their hearts, giving him their best. That is the heart that receives Jesus fully, unconditionally. The heart that welcomes him in every circumstance and every part of life. The heart that delights in him whether he meets their expectations or not, whether he performs miracles or not, whether he allows suffering and want or abundance of shelter and provision. And that, dear friends, is the heart in which God himself delights.
So as we enter Easter weekend in which we celebrate the agony of Jesus’ suffering and death and the joy of his resurrection that purchased our right to call him Father and delight in him as a Friend, I ask you: How do you receive Jesus? Do you reject his desire for intimacy with you out of fear of upsetting the familiar or the daily routine? Do you serve him without seeking intimacy with him? Do you love him only or primarily because of what he does for you? Or do you welcome him into your heart with deep delight and hunger to know him as Father, Friend, Comforter, Counselor, Messiah?
As we reflect this week and weekend on what it cost Jesus for us to be reconciled to God, let it spur us on to go all the way, shedding anything that stands in the way of our knowing him intimately and being counted among his closest followers.
For His Glory,