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“The Lord Has Need Of You”

93Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner

Matthew 21:1-11

(Shared With Bishop Vashti McKenzie’s Nationwide Clergy Lenten Prayer Call)

Holy Week is being celebrated by over 2 billion Christians throughout the world whose very faith is centered in  the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.   While most will focus their Lenten prayers, reflections, fasting, repentance, preaching, and praise on the three days from Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday, the Gospels detail an entire week of events, from Psalm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday, that lays the foundation for our Christian character and our eternal hope.

The events of Jesus’ last week occupy a third of the content of all four gospels.

Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, weeps over Jerusalem, drives the money changers from the temple; washes the disciples’ feet as an act of servant leadership; curses a withered fig tree showing disdain for things including religion that look good on the outside, but are empty on the inside;  holds a last supper prays to be spared the coming agony; is betrayed and tried by the Jewish leaders (the Sanhedrin) and before Pilate, and Pilate washes his hands of his blood; is crucified as king of the Jews, and is mocked by all. On his death there is an earthquake, and saints rise from their tombs. The two Marys discover the empty tomb, guarded by an angel, telling him he is not there for he is risen.  Hallelujah!!!!

Of these Holy Week events, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Psalm Sunday reveals more than any other event his real identity and mission.  By this time in his ministry of about three years, Jesus had become a household name.  Thousands had seen him do countless miracles: restoring sight to the blind, feeding thousands, casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead, and turning water into wine.  In Matthew 21:1-11, Jesus disciples were instructed by him to go to a certain part of town and secure a donkey and a colt telling the owner “The Lord Has Need of It”.  Because Jesus was so popular, all he had to say was “The Lord Has Need Of It”.  His popularity reached it peak when he made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, riding on a colt to the shouts and praises of “Hosanna, blessed is the Son of David, who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.”

People threw their garments in front of the colt and celebrated him with the waving of Psalm branches, as their king—shouting “HOSANNA” – which in the Greek is “eulogeo –meaning “to speak well of”, from which we get our word “eulogy”.   We know that many who shouted Hosanna were not ready to follow him, but wanted only the “goodies” or blessings he had to offer.  Others shouted Hosanna because they anticipated him as their king coming in triumph.

Matthew’s Gospel is about the kingship of Jesus and parallels the prophecy of Zechariah 9.9, 500 years earlier, where a donkey and colt are also mentioned.  So Matthew 21:1-11 is showing how Jesus’ actions fulfilled the prophet’s words, giving another indication that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.  When Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, he affirmed his Messianic royalty as well as his humility.

His royalty is seen in the symbolism of the donkey in Eastern tradition as an animal of peace, versus the horse, which is the animal of war. A king came riding upon a horse when he was bent on war and rode upon a donkey when he wanted to point out that he was coming in peace. Therefore Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem symbolized him as Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Savior (Isaiah 9:6), who as come establish a new order of justice and righteousness—- not as a war-waging king.

But riding on the donkey’s colt also presents three immediate contradictions for the people of God.

First, he is riding into Jerusalem (like Washington, DC), the seat of power – not on a royal mount or stallion, fit for a king, but on a lowly donkey.  The people are shouting their “Hosannas”; their “eulogeo” because they expect their king Jesus to rescue them from Roman occupation and re-establish King David’s throne.  But Jesus is coming to give his life to establish God’s heavenly kingdom or authority on the earth in the hearts of believers, where Jesus is Lord and God is in control.

Second, in the mind of those shouting “eulogeo”, and “Hosanna”, and “Blessed is he come comes in the name of the Lord”, they envision a mighty and powerful king.  We know that kings are generally associated with the high, mighty, rich, and powerful.  Instead, Jesus rides on a lowly animal of peace to symbolize his identification with the poor, left out, locked out and lowly in our world.

Third, , he is celebrated by the same people on Psalm Sunday who turned against him on Good Friday and demanded that he be crucified. But Jesus, knowing how fickle the people are, focuses only on pleasing his Father God, and not impressing people who all too quickly turn their backs on him.  He is focused “flint-like” on setting free humanity trapped in the bondage of sin and establishing an earthly kingdom of righteousness and justice.

Today, during Lenten Season, we approach Resurrection Sunday, the federal budget in Washington, DC as the seat of power, is being balanced on the backs of the poor, the vulnerable, the sick, and the locked out.   Jesus has need of those who are single mindedly focused on pointing people to Christ, our Savior and eternal hope.   Jesus has need of those who are able resist the temptation to bask in adoration of the crowds shouting words of praise, and focus their attention on advocating for the needs of “least of these our brothers and sisters”.  Jesus has need of those who will speak out for those communities of color who continue to be disproportionately impacted by higher rates of poverty, job cuts, and foreclosure rates.  Jesus has need of those, who, in these times of three wars -Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya – will speak out for peace, in the spirit of the Prince of Peace.

But, most of all, Jesus has need of those whose total lives are so surrendered to him—spirit, soul, body, titles, position, position, access to power,—-that like the surrendered Christ — he can work his power in them to break up the fallow ground of injustice, bigotry, and inequality wherever it is found.

Even while ministers of the Gospel and the people of God alike are struggling with their own financial instability, rising gas prices—and job losses affecting every church, Jesus has need of those who’ll look pass their own struggles and challenges to those who are much worse off out of their love for God.

Prayer:

Almighty God, we love you.  We adore you. And we thank you for ministers of the Gospel and saints of God who are connected across the nation and world during this Lenten season to the same eternal hope in our risen Christ.  We praise you for parting the heavens, coming down to earth, and showing us what God is like and what we as Christ’s followers are supposed to be like.  We exalt you for the blood of Jesus that presents us faultless before your throne of grace, that we might live solely for you.

Forgive us God for overlooking the nearly 3000 verses of Scripture on God’s concerns for the poor, the widowed, orphaned, the fatherless, and the oppressed. Sharpen this season our sensibilities and our sensitivity to those who cannot afford to drive no matter what the price of gas is.  Heighten our awareness, O God, to the senselessness of war with no clear purpose, claiming the lives of young mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers of every persuasion and background.

Provoke us to speak out and stand in the gap for those children whose dreams are nightmares of abandonment and hopelessness.  Bless these your people of during this Lenten Season to move past the dark night of Calvary’s brutality on Friday to the bright light and eternal hope of Sunday morning’s resurrection.  Grant them courage for the living of these days of contradictions over where real power emanates.  Help them to know that you are still on the throne,  and that all power is in your hand.

Most of all, O God, remind them that the same power that got Jesus up out of the grave on Friday, and ascended him into heaven on Resurrection morning is still working in those whose only agenda is moving pass the adoring crowd shouting their “hosannas” and pointing the spiritually and physically destitute to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We ask these prayers in the mighty, matchless and magnificent name of Jesus the Christ. Amen

Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner



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