The road between Jericho and Bethany was pretty barren, and it wasn’t long before the crowd became a group and then the group became a few, and soon it was just us walking along the road.
The conversation had turned bleak again, Jesus was insisting that the time was getting close. He spoke of being betrayed and arrested. He said he didn’t want us to be unprepared, but it didn’t work, none of us could have imagined what next week would look like and how our world would be turned upside down.
It was close to lunch that Jesus spoke to Thomas and Thaddaeus. He told them he had an errand for them in Bethphage, which was a small village next to Bethany.
“When you first arrive in the village, you will see a donkey and its colt tied up outside a small house on the right. I want you to untie them both and have them ready for our entry into Jerusalem.”
It was Thomas who spoke first. “So, we just take the animals, we don’t have to ask anyone?”
“Things have been arranged, but if anyone asks just tell them the Lord needs them and everything will be fine.”
Thomas looked a little skeptical, but then again Thomas always looked a little skeptical, but he was getting better at doing what Jesus asked.
When we arrived in town, they had the donkey and colt waiting for us and Jesus said, “I’m going to ride from here.” Which seemed really strange, because I don’t recall ever seeing Jesus on an animal of any kind.
“Lord, are you sure this is a good idea?” It was the Zealot who voiced what we were all thinking, “I don’t think he’s been broken yet. You could be in for quite the ride.”
“I’ll be fine, my one-eyed friend. Trust me, this is the way it’s supposed to be.”
“Ok, it’s your neck” and with that Simon took off his cloak and laid it on the back of the young animal.
Nothing surprised me anymore when it came to Jesus, but I held my breath as he mounted the young donkey. The colt turned and looked as he felt Jesus’ weight settle on his back, but he acted as if he’d been waiting for this all his life.
And as we made our way from Bethphage into Jerusalem, people gathering along the road, yelling Jesus’ name and laying their cloaks and palm branches on the road in front of Jesus.
I don’t know who started the chant, but it spread as we made our way into Jerusalem.
“Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Some were shouting, some were singing, and there was a sense of excitement in the air. For once it seemed that people got it, nobody was begging Jesus for a healing, nobody was trying to touch him. Instead, it seemed that they finally realized who he was, and they were giving him the praise that was due him.
At one point, several Pharisees stepped into Jesus’ path and demanded that he quiet the crowd down, they said there was no need of attracting the attention of the Romans. But Jesus just laughed. “Today, it wouldn’t matter, if it wasn’t the crowd, it would be the rocks.”
That was how it was, all the way to the temple gates. When we got there, Jesus handed the reins to a man in the crowd, and thanked him for the use of the colt. He was obviously the owner, but I hadn’t even noticed him tagging along.
We were standing outside the temple gates and you could sense the mood had changed. Jesus, started to speak, but I knew something was wrong.
“Oh, Jerusalem, I wish it didn’t have to end this way.”
Apparently, that was it for the day, Jesus said we were expected in Bethany that evening and we heading back the way we came. Except this time Jesus was walking and there were just the twelve of us.
Judas and Simon were at the back of the group and you could tell they were excited about the crowd’s reaction, and what that might mean in the days ahead.
Later, Matthew would remind us of how the prophet Zechariah had predicted that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. It seemed that the tax-collector could find a reference from the Law or the Prophets for most everything.