This year, Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, April 10. The Gospels recall with worshipful fanfare how Jesus enters the holy city of Jerusalem. The city is swollen with pilgrims who have arrived to celebrate Passover, the great Jewish celebration of emancipation of the oppressed Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.
This day also invites us to profound reflection. Think about it: we find the world on the brink of a most momentous event. The very Son of God was about to be handed over, betrayed, abused, murdered. There was, in a sense, going to be a death in God within days. The universe was about to turn the corner from endless darkness back toward the Light, that Light that the darkness cannot overcome. All that is at stake cannot ever be overestimated or overstated. It is a point in time when all of creation holds its breath as it plays out.
Amidst all these tremendous concerns, the Palm Sunday story begins with a rather mundane concern: Jesus needs transportation into the city. He dispatches a pair of disciples to obtain some animals for Jesus to enter Jerusalem properly. The two go to a nearby village, and just as he had said, they find a colt tied securely alongside its mother. As they loose the animals, the owners appear on the scene and demand to know what’s going on. Jesus has told them how to respond. “The Lord needs it,” they say.
With these animals, Jesus triumphantly proceeds into Jerusalem. The people could probably catch the dramatization of Zechariah’s Old Testament prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech. 9:9) The king had arrived and deliverance was at hand. “Hosanna!” the people cried. Save us, please!
To anticipate Palm Sunday, then Good Friday and Easter, I think we need to return to that humble prologue of the bigger, flashier moment. I think it speaks deeply into our lives today. We’ll need to turn our attention back to those animals, tied up and awaiting release. I’ll put it this way: do you find yourself tied down by something that limits your freedom, or that prevents you from fully realizing your potential, or that distracts you from the ideals you believe in and long for? If you are like me, it’s probably not just one thing, but many things.
Listening to this story, we can ask what needs “untying” in you and me? How are you tied down? What is tying you down? What is part of your life or within you that needs to be loosed, released, let go, untied, so you can join in the triumphal march of life as a full participant in God’s redeeming work? Many of us feel bound to situations now or things in our past that weigh us down like a heavy burden. Yet we may, consciously or unconsciously, long for freedom. To be untied is a word of amazing grace about how God chooses to be with us.
And then remember what Jesus taught those disciples long ago? They are to be set loose because “the Lord needs them.” I believe that is for us, too. The Lord needs us. Each of us has been created with purpose, given diverse and unique gifts by the Holy Spirit. They’ve been given to us to use. We are called to be the body of Christ, hands, feet, voices that work for the Kingdom of God and to serve others in Christ’s name. The Lord needs us and doesn’t want any part of us tied down by those things, attitudes, or behaviors that prevent us from getting that work done.
God’s side in that relationship is known by God’s love. We may not be worthy in terms of deserving God’s love. None of us are, but we are not worthless. The good news of God in Jesus Christ is that we have been saved, that we are eternally loved, though we are still sinners. That is how God chooses to be with us. The grace of God in Christ is lavished upon each of us. What we must do is receive God’s love and allow it to transform us and live that transformation out in the world.
That is how we join the holy processional by responding to his call and untie all that needs untying. “The Lord needs them.” The Lord needs us, too – each and every one of us. Amen.
Grace & Peace,