28After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Reflection: After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
Rich Mullins, my favorite singer/songwriter, wrote these words in Quoting Deuteronomy to the Devil: “Lord God Almighty came as a preacher man…[and] set his face like a flint toward Jerusalem.” This is echoed in two Scripture passages. The first is Isaiah 50:7: “The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” The second is Luke 9:51, which reads: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus had a clear mission and purpose and he set his will firmly on the end goal.
Jesus was going to Jerusalem to give his life for us and our salvation. He could have stopped at the entrance to Jerusalem, where the crowd was singing his praises. He could have gotten distracted and basked in the momentary acceptance of the people. It would have been a nice, affirming, comfortable place to stay. But Jesus was so resolute that he kept himself focused on his purpose even when those praises turned to curses and his own strength began to wane. His face was set like flint; his will kept moving like an arrow towards its target.
Jesus is calling us to go, to follow him to the place where our sinfulness dies and our true, God-intended self comes to life. There are many distractions. All of the people gathered around Jesus in jubilation on Palm Sunday had other concerns that threatened to become more important than completing the journey with Jesus. Many of them gave in to the demands of those concerns. Some, like Mary Magdalene and John stayed faithful until the end, keeping their focus as solidly as Jesus. We know that some, like Peter, would make the necessary corrections to get back on the right pathway after veering off course. However, there were very likely others who let the concerns of life derail them, distracting them so effectively that they never recovered the joy and connection to God they experienced on Palm Sunday.
If we are following Jesus, then there is only one way to go – the way Jesus goes. As we prepare to enter into Holy Week, Jesus is leading us to Jerusalem. He will not veer from that destination. And Jerusalem means self-denial, sacrifice, and purposeful, intentional submission to God. It means not staying in the comfortable places. Toward what goal is your face “set like flint”? In what direction are you heading? If there were a signpost along the road of your life right now, what would it say? It is time to move toward what God has in store for you, not what you have in store for yourself. It might involve a cross, but remember that on the other side of the cross there is life.
Journaling Focus: Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’
The Lord needs us. Well, perhaps we could say that the Lord wants us, but God has designed the kingdom of God and the ministry of the gospel in such a way that we are intended to play an integral part. We do not build the kingdom of God, but God builds the kingdom through us. In the Emmaus community there is a saying: “Christ is counting on you.” What is it about your life that God “needs” in order to bring the kingdom to your corner of the world? How might you offer what you have to the service of God’s kingdom? Reflect on these questions as you write in your journal this week. Are you willing to give God what God “needs” from your life?
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
These questions are designed to help make sense of the message of Scripture. They are not designed to overwhelm, but to enlighten. Do not feel as if you need to answer all – or even most – of these questions every week. Perhaps pick one or two that will help you explore the Scripture and its message more deeply.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passage teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Listen to the song, Hosanna (Praise Is Rising). Notice how this song speaks of salvation, praise, and our willingness to welcome Jesus into our experience – as well as the ways all three of these are related. How are you welcoming God’s salvation presence into your life with praise and openness? What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples.
God is sending people everyday into the mission field and into a vocation in the ministry. Pray for these people, asking God to guide them, give them courage, and to anoint them for the difficult work ahead. This June at Annual Conference we will commission and ordain eleven of these men and women. Even if you do not know them personally, pray for them and their ministries. God knows who they are. They will feel your prayers holding them up in God’s strength. Pray for yourself, also, as God sends you daily into the ministry work that is specifically set aside for you in your context.
Meditation Focus: As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’
This is one of those Scripture passages that lends itself well to imaginative meditation. There is so much going on in this passage, that there are many entrance points at which you can place yourself in the story. Take some time to imagine yourself in this scene. See Jesus riding on the colt and the colorful cloaks being spread out in front of him. Smell the fragrance of the plants lining the road and growing at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Feel the press of the crowds and the sun on you skin as you remove your cloak. Hear the loud praises of the disciples. Speak the words of blessing over the coming King. Experience the vulnerability and excitement of opening yourself to Jesus and to his arrival. How do you feel? What are you receiving from God? Does the excitement carry you beyond this scene and faithfully through the rest of the journey to the cross?
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- In what ways have you joined Jesus on his journey to the cross?
- How have you humbled yourself in God’s presence?
- In what ways have you broken out in spontaneous praise?
- How have you welcomed Jesus into your life?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Holy Action: I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.
Spend some time in nature this week and let the wonder and beauty of the creation “cry out” praises to God. Consider God’s care of the world and all its plants and creatures. If God cares for them, doesn’t God care for you more deeply? Find a way to join creation in its song of praise.
Breath Prayer: LORD God, save us.