A few days before Palm Sunday: The Easy Way Out
Apparently, Jesus teaches us that we are foolish when we look for the shortcut or the easy way out. One of the places we see that is in the ride into Jerusalem that kicked off what we now call Holy Week. Upon closer examination, perhaps we should call it “Humiliation Week.” Regardless of what exegetical tricks we try to use, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, he looked like a clown at the end of a circus parade. He could’ve summoned a bold stallion, but there was a donkey reserved for him. Why?
He was patient. In the Greek it really meant that he was “longsuffering.” He wasn’t looking for the easy way out. There was a plan in place that called for his humiliation for the benefit of all of humanity. I often look for a shortcut. What am I missing by doing that? Jesus must’ve known that every minute of every day had meaning and was designed with a purpose.
What did he teach us as he rode that donkey? That we can’t cover up a bad situation to make it look better than what it is. That it was more in keeping with they life he had lived. On earth, he was poor. So, a borrowed donkey was more true to his identity at the time. I don’t want to go over the top in my observations, but I think it is quite fair to admit that the Jesus narrative was simple, but hard. For many years, this view of life affected my view of prayer.
I used to struggle with what to pray when a friend or relative was in a difficult situation or was ill. I was so aware of how often Jesus said, “No,” to those prayers that I felt it was unproductive. Why pray if it doesn’t make any difference. God’s mind is already made up, I thought. Look at Jesus. God didn’t relieve his suffering. I was increasingly aware of God’s sovereignty and how he often used difficulty to make us more like Jesus or our truest selves, and I didn’t want to get in the way of the Holy Spirit.
Then, I read the story of the synagogue leader (Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26) asking for help for his daughter who died. He asked Jesus to come and touch her and the leader believed that Jesus could raise her from the dead. That conversational request taught me that praying was asking Jesus to do something that we wanted for ourselves or someone else. We didn’t have to try to figure out the best way to pray in alignment with a theological framework, just express our feelings. The Trinity could figure out the best thing to do, but I shouldn’t be surprised either way.
And that brings us back to the suffering and pain of life. As we encounter pain, it is a revelation of The Pain that Jesus carried to the cross. As he rode that donkey, he was already thinking about what was coming. But instead of being pre-occupied with the future, he was fully present with the crowds and the twelve over the next few days realizing that he needed to prepare them for his death and departure. As we mature in our appreciation of the power of pain and suffering in our lives and in our identifying with the Savior Jesus, how do we express that in relationship with our family and close friends? What is the balance between living and dying? One answer to these questions is to find a person in the Bible with whom you identify. There are lots of different personalities and life situations portrayed and surely you can find a kindred spirit or two. How did they connect with God or with Jesus while he was on earth? You might follow their lead.