By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 21:1-11
1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet:
5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
I wish we had an insight into the owner of the donkey. For whatever reason, Jesus chose to send the disciples, rather than go himself, knowing that whoever this colt belonged to was prepared by God. Much like Simeon in the temple can pick out the baby Jesus from dozens of other babies that must have been coming regularly for the same reason, somehow God has told this person, “I need your baby donkey. I’ll send some men for it — they won’t ask first.” And he must have known and loved the God who told him this, because he consented to give his donkey to strangers.
Then the disciples begin — and the crowds follow — to throw their cloaks along the (undoubtedly filthy — remember all the animals around) road for Jesus to ride over. Why? All it accomplishes is to get their clothes dirty — and when you might only have one cloak, and it was valuable, and laundry was hard work! But they recognized their king. A king they loved. They knew him because he came riding a donkey.
A donkey, of all things! In the fairly tale, Pinocchio, the wicked boys turn into donkeys. That seems more fitting. A donkey is not a noble animal. But Zechariah — though not a stranger to noble language or noble imagery — said “a donkey,” and here it is. Again, they knew the God they loved, they knew him by his words, even though those words were not what you’d expect.
I began the week pondering the ways in which we fall into worshiping our idea of Jesus rather than the real Jesus. Love is the way out of that pitfall. Love bridges things that don’t make sense. Love doesn’t want or try or expect to reduce the Beloved into anything less than he is. Love would have you muddy your cloak just to express itself.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Malakal – The Episcopal Church of South Sudan
St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, River Hills, Wis.