Sunday, April 1, 2012

Here Comes The King


When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately"...Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields...Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Mark 11:1-3, 7-8, 11

No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they'd die for.
Martin Luther King

Today, those of us in the Christian Tradition will begin our journey through Holy Week near the Mount of Olives (echoes of the final battle between Israel and her enemies in Zechariah 14:2-4), approaching Jerusalem on a young colt never ridden. Those desperately searching for spontaneity in this episode will be disappointed. Jesus has a strategic plan to expose the counterfeit nature of those in power. He pre-arranges his transportation (colt) and preps the peasant crowds to bring symbolic tokens (leafy branches) from the fields where their "unskilled labor" usually would go unnoticed. These day laborers showed up to pay homage to this Servant-King who healed, advocated for and pledged solidarity to their Cause. After all, this was their lord and savior, not Caesar in Rome or Herod in his seaside palace.

What precisely was this People's King up to? This was street theater, imitating the Roman leaders on triumphant horses, with their soldiers and weapons, intimidating the crowds into submission at the start of the Jewish holiday festival. As Bible scholar and activist Ched Myers writes:

...the theatrics of the procession may have been meant by Mark as a kind of parody, contrasting Jesus' destiny of the cross with the popular messianic expectations of the disciples/crowds/readers.

The Prince of Peace came riding in on an unbroken colt from a poor village on the outskirts of town. It looked something like this:



Or this:



When scores of people come together in their quest for humanity, to demand dignity, they are caught up in a whirlwind of love and solidarity. They've been kicked down for so long and then one of their own, someone special, anointed even, comes along and unveils God's Dream for the World and they've just gotta join in--which can only mean marching on and rising up and sittin' in. Confrontation.

Which leads us to Jerusalem, where the Real Lord--the Dream Giver--got off the colt and went right into the Temple, the very center of God's universe--to have a "look around," getting the scouting report and strategizing for the next chapter in this campaign of liberation. But until then, it's back to Bethany for a good night sleep. It's gonna be a big day tomorrow.

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