When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave two disciples a task. He said to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter, you will find a donkey tied up and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anybody says anything to you, say that the Lord needs it.” He sent them off right away. Now this happened to fulfill what the prophet said, Say to Daughter Zion, “Look, your king is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey, and on a colt the donkey’s offspring.” – Matthew 21:1-5, Common English Bible
The bishops in the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops are offering weekly pastoral messages during Lent and closing on Easter Sunday. The messages celebrate these words: “You shall call, and the Lord shall answer.” (Isaiah 58:9a)
Jews who lived under Roman domination and exploitation called on God to liberate them, as God had answered the cries of Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Many saw in Jesus the promised Messiah who will liberate them from Roman tyranny. They saw in Jesus signs of the Anointed One. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and lifted up the weary and heavy laden with his Good News. When Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a “colt of a donkey,” the people jubilantly welcomed him because they recalled the words of the prophet Zechariah, “Your King will come, riding on a colt of a donkey.” (Zech 9:9)
Within a week, however, their dreams were dashed. Jesus was crucified. But God answered, “Not now. Only after you prepare the way.”
Only centuries later, after Christians had shared the Risen Christ with their neighbors and built networks of faith communities across the Empire did Jesus Christ reign over Imperial Rome, “triumphant and victorious.” (Zech 9:9) That is, Christ came again “humble and riding on a donkey,” that is, on Christians who were dismissed, scorned, and persecuted.
God intends to act the same way through us today. No room for false modesty with our God. The Apostle Paul reminded Christians in Corinth that “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are.” (1 Cor 1:28)
People behind the Iron Curtain saw it when clusters of Methodists prayed for liberation from Soviet domination. So did Methodists in Korea and the Philippines who courageously prayed God to “reduce to nothing” Japanese Colonialism that exploited their people. A Filipino American United Methodist told me he was forced to watch as the Japanese soldiers shot his father. His father was caught delivering messages and food to other Methodist rebels who lived in the hills. God answered their call.
In less dramatic but telling ways, we regularly hear at memorial services, the most uplifting gesture that saved them happened when the deceased person sent a card, made a telephone call, or brought by a hot dish. Not much, but, Oh, so telling. It is still the Good News of the risen Christ coming, as it were, “on a colt of a donkey.”
Dear God, even if I feel like I am a nobody, by your grace empower me to join others who will “reduce to nothing” the sin and suffering in this world. Amen.
– Bishop Roy I. Sano, Retired