‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ Mark 11: 10
God of the journey, you travel with us along paths both rough and smooth; as we celebrate your Son’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem travel with us into Holy Week, that through your Holy Spirit we may witness to the depth of your passion and be ready to rise into the fullness of Easter Day. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.
So, here’s a question. Why did Jesus leave the temple and go to Bethany? You know this story. You remember what happened, aye?
Jesus enters Jerusalem and he’s riding a borrowed colt. He’s leading a procession that’s on the move. People are in front of and behind Jesus. They are shouting their Hosannas (Save us! They Shout!). They are throwing down palms and their korowai (cloaks) for Jesus to ride over. Hence, Palm Sunday or the triumphal entry. They are rolling out the red carpet for Jesus. There’s excitement and anticipation in. the air. Something big is happening! Jesus rides into Jerusalem. He enters the temple. He looks around at everything. And then he leaves.
It seems like the bubble created by the people has burst. Jesus does nothing. He says nothing. He just leaves. He goes to Bethany. It’s a strange and anti-climactic ending to the triumphal entry. It sounds like Jesus is retreating and getting out of town. What’s that all about? Did Jesus have somewhere else go? I wonder if he was scared. In other words, as we enter into Holy Week, it’s supposed to be a scary week. So, I wonder if Jesus was wavering a bit. Maybe he was having some doubts about what lay ahead, some questions he needed answered and just wanted to get away. Perhaps he needed to regroup and make another start.
We’ve all done that, right? Haven’t you had to face really difficult conversations or situations? You know, the painful and scary decisions. We make a start but don’t finish. We back off, re-access the situation and then maybe try again. Could that be the reason why Jesus left the temple? This is such a strange ending to the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Mark’s is the only one of the four gospels to describe this. In Matthew (21:10-13) the whole city is in turmoil when Jesus enters. He goes to the temple and drives out those who are buying and selling. He overturns tables and chairs. In Luke (19:40-46) Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and then enters the temple where he drives out those who were buying and selling. And in John’s account (12:12-33) Jesus doesn’t even go to the temple. He cleansed it at the beginning of the gospel. Instead, he enters the city and begins teaching. Mark’s gospel is the only one that says, Jesus entered the temple, looked around and left. So why did Jesus leave the temple and go to Bethany? The gospel tells us why. Jesus left the temple “as it was already late” (Mark 11:11). What if this story is about something more than just the time of day? What if Jesus is late getting somewhere or getting something done?
But what could Jesus be late for? What if Jesus was thinking about the colt? You know, it was getting late to return the colt back to its owner. Mark’s account of the triumphal entry is the only one to say that Jesus promised to return the colt to its owner. All the gospels agree that the colt was either borrowed from its owner (Matthew 21:1-3; Mark 11:1-7; Luke 19:29-34) or found (John 12:19). But only Mark speaks about Jesus returning the colt. Jesus sent two disciples to borrow this colt and told them if anyone asked why they were taking the colt they were to say, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately” (Mark 11:3). And that’s what they did.
So what if that’s why Jesus left the temple? Maybe he left so he could keep his promise and follow through on what he said he would do. Maybe this is about Jesus being true to himself and keeping his word. What if this is about Jesus staying centered within himself despite what the week holds for him? All the pain and suffering he must endure. What if returning the colt is a metaphor for us as we enter into and walk through this Holy Week? What might returning the colt mean for us throughout this week? It’s an image or metaphor to ponder on and it raises a couple of questions.
Firstly, what do you need to return this week? What do you need to release or let go of? We all have stuff that we’ve carried around with us for far too long. It’s no longer able to take us anywhere or give us life. It’s just baggage we carry around that continues to weigh us down and corrupt our hearts. In other words, what do you need to let go of, release, and give up this week? Is it a grudge or resentment of someone? Anger? Fear? Disappointment? Regret? Maybe it’s Guilt? Or Envy? Maybe you need to return being in control, having to be right, your need for approval or perfectionism. I don’t know what it is for you but we all have stuff. Maybe this Holy Week is the time to return and release all your stuff, all your raruraru and hara to God, trusting that God can do something with our stuff when we were never able to do.
And, what if returning and releasing all this stuff is also about ourselves returning to God? Returning to our center and reclaiming our truest self? That means we could then move forward, not from the same old place, but from our newly recovered centered. That’s what Jesus did. He stayed true to himself throughout this week, and so must we. So maybe returning the colt is ultimately about returning to our original self, that self of beauty and goodness, that God created and has loved from the beginning? What if those are the movements you have to make this week? Surrendering to God and returning to God, releasing all your hara and letting them go. And reclaiming those parts of yourselves that have been lost, ignored, forgotten or denied. Even as we carry around that bad stuff that needs to be returned, so also there are parts of ourselves and our life to which we need to return.
And here’s my second question. What do you need to return to? What if you returned to a life of joy, hope, beauty, truth and honesty? What if we came back to justice, mercy and forgiveness? What if we reclaimed the dignity and holiness of each human life? What if we recenter ourselves in peace and courage? What if we returned to being able love our neighbours, our-self and our enemy? Coming back to our original selves would be like starting a new life, wouldn’t it?
So we begin this Holy Week, like Jesus, by returning the colt. What is it you need to give up and to what do you need to return? Those are the two questions. To answer them we must look around at everything in our lives. That’s what Jesus did. It’s not so much just looking around at everything outside of us but looking around at everything within us. Look at what’s there. Look at what’s missing in your life. Look at what you need, what you feel, who you truly are, and who you want to be. And then give that colt back. The one you took but never returned.
So, take that image of returning the colt with you this week. Take it wherever you go. Let it be present as you live your life and as you engage with people in relationships. Whether it’s in your family, at work, at school or at the shops. Returning the colt is how Holy Week begins. Returning to God and ourselves is the promise of how this week will end. So look at where you are and then go return the colt and come back to God. Amen
Archdeacon Kaio Karipa
Photo: 28 March 2021