Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘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.” ’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 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!

Peace in heaven,

and glory in the highest heaven!’

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’

- Luke 19:28-40

In other accounts of this particular event in the story of Jesus' life, the colt is specifically referred to as the colt of a donkey. So at first, we must come to understand the humility with which the Messiah greets those who are hailing him in Jerusalem. This is the initiation of the time of confrontation and persecution. Jesus is accepted and greeted by the crowds as Messiah, as they shout out a greeting from Psalm 118 (understood to refer to Messiah) in response to all that he has done, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’ The crowds here accept him as king and identify him as such.

The Pharisees are indignant, and they ask Jesus to tell his disciples to stop the shouting. But Jesus replies that ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’ The whole effect of creation, this seems to say, is to pursue its destiny of union with God, its purpose in understanding its Creator. I am also reminded, again, of the phrase from St. Peter's epistle, referring to disciples as "living stones."

In this passage from Luke, the crowd is specifically referred to as "the whole multitude of the disciples." But repeatedly, we read in these gospels, that the assumptions and values of crowds, of "the people" is rarely accurate. It is rarely to be considered truth. Often, the truth is something hidden and revealed that is surprising to the assumptions of the crowd, of the society and its collective opinions - and so it will be in the outcome of this brave greeting to a king. Jesus' notions of kingship will not be in accordance with the expectations of the awaited Messiah for this crowd. As he symbolically rides in on the colt (as written prophetically in the Old Testament), we are to understand the humility inherent in this Messiah, in this king. His power is used to a purpose, to point to "only God who is good" (Luke 18:19). The miracles of power that he has used are to point to a Way, a particular mission and goal, and not to act as a traditional king. This power is accompanied with the quality of humility, which we are to emulate. It is not coercive and does not force love from those who do not wish to give it.

I think it's of great importance to remember this position of our Lord. He is acclaimed as king. The author of Creation is responded to even by the very stones themselves - it is to be understood that this is a natural impulse in us for union with God, to gravitate to the author of all. The evil that is in the world (and I believe this is true for all forms of evil) is not natural in the sense that it does not belong to our true natures. But every form of arrogance plays against what's written in our hearts, and every learned form of lie and deception and fraud is a barrier to the heart, a defense against true identity. Like it or not, personal identity evolves through that with which we accept to participate, to relate, to serve. I think this is a very important context for all theology, and the understanding of the world we live in. Many religions teach us about undoing what is learned, having a "white heart" or an "empty mind." Christianity says to us that what we find in this undoing is salvation: an identity not of emptiness, but an emptiness in order to receive. Humility is the virtue that precedes or accompanies the abundance of life and the fruits of Spirit - the fulfillment of joy. Jesus seemingly stands in this scene in the fulfillment of worldly gain - a multitude of disciples greet him and welcome him to Jerusalem as Messiah, as king or deliverer. But our Messiah teaches us in what is to come what his power is about, and that we empty (Crucifixion) in order to receive the abundance of life and true identity (Resurrection & Ascension). We shall see what unfolds as we progress from here. But in this passage, we are at the tip of understanding the depth of conversion or metanoia ("change of mind"). We exchange, as did our Lord, a worldly identity for the one we receive in that impulse to union with Creator. It doesn't often look desirable, this humility - but it is the Way to life in abundance, to true self.


  1. Humility, as Jesus shows us riding on the donkey or colt, is that when we put ourselves below people the lord lifts us up. When we are humble is when God can show his glory through us.

  2. I do think that when we are humble is when the lord can do the most through us.