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Lent - 2017

 THOUGHTS TO PONDER

THE ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM - A Meditational Adaptation of the Gospel Story  Given by God, Written by Donna M. Koller - 1995©

Prayerfully ponder the meditational reading as you "enter into" the story. Watch, listen, hear JESUS speak TO YOU in the story--what is it He wants to say to you . . . do for you? Hear his words, receive them, not just in your mind, but in your heart! When you have finished, note those places that most deeply resonate, challenge, bring tears, fear, peace, anger, etc. Bring these to the Lord in prayer throughout your Lenten journey. --Be Blessed.

Our meditation finds us sitting under a budding oak tree, enjoying the lovely spring morning. Just a stone’s throw away is the road that leads from Bethany into Jerusalem. There are many travelers on the road today. Passover is only several days away, and many are coming to Jerusalem for the celebration. It’s interesting that one can almost recognize those preparing for this “holiest of days” by their excitement. We lean back against the tree and relax as we watch the travelers.

Our thoughts take us back in time to the first Passover. Remembering the stories, we think about the Israelites’ struggle to be freed from the bondage that had become the only way of life they knew . . . how they had prayed to be delivered . . . and their own failed attempts at freedom before the advent of their “deliverer.” Yet, in the midst of their poverty and utter desolation they carried an undying hope of deliverance.

We begin to reflect on our own lives. Born to be free, yet held tightly by invisible chains. Chains of our own making; chains imposed upon us by others; and even becoming the chains that hold others bound. At times being fully aware of the chains and filled with yearning for freedom from them; sometimes being totally unaware of our captivity and even unknowingly reinforcing the chains by our own actions. The instruments of bondage may be different--no chains--no ropes--no whips--but their effects are the same. Those invisible chains hold us tightly; we could not be the person we long to be, instead become who others want or think we should be. We begin to feel a sense of kinship with those Israelites of long ago as we recall the pain of our own desire for freedom. Absorbed in our thoughts, we are unaware that Jesus sits down beside us.

His words break thru the silence of our thoughts. “Shalom, my friend. I’m glad that you accepted my invitation to be here with me today. I’ve much to tell you . . . much to show you . . . much to ask of you.” His words are puzzling; but we haven’t time to consider their meaning as Jesus rises to His feet and extends His hand . . . .“Come, let’s walk to the gates of the city. I’ve sent some of My friends on an errand; they’ll meet us there.” No one but Jesus is aware of our presence.

As we begin to make our way to the city gates, others recognize Jesus and begin to follow us . . . first there are two . . . then five . . . then ten. The group continues to grow, so too their excitement. Jesus explains. “Some of these people were at Jericho when I restored the eyesight of Bartimaeus, the blind man. Many were in the Temple and heard me teaching, speaking of doing my Father’s work . . . of being the Son of God. Others were at Bethany when I raised Lazarus from the dead. They want to believe that I am their promised king, but they expected a different kind of king. Some find my words difficult, especially my message of love. I want you to observe closely all that happens this day, for nothing that is said or done is without purpose.”

The crowd around us has grown to a considerable size. The people are jubilant . . . excitement fills the air. It’s become impossible to hear anything over the noise. Jesus nods and points to a group of men standing at the city gates with an animal. We walk in their direction. As we reach the group, Jesus raises His hand in greeting . . . the men are some of His apostles. The crowd is noisier than ever now and Jesus doesn’t speak. Instead he walks over to the animal, the colt of an ass, and strokes its forehead. Apparently anticipating what Jesus is about to do, the apostles lay their cloaks across its back. They help Jesus mount. As He begins to move out into the street upon the ass, others lay their cloaks in the street ahead of Him; some lay palm branches in His path. All are shouting excitedly. Quickly the shouts become a chorus of praise . . . “HOSANNA! . . . HOSANNA! . . . BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, THE KING OF ISRAEL! . . . HOSANNA! . . . HOSANNA!” Over and over, the chorus continues. . . .

Walking alongside Jesus as He moves slowly down the street with this strange entourage, it would be easy to get caught up in the emotion of the crowd, if not for Jesus’ instructions to observe closely all that happens. Watching Jesus . . . His expression is intense; His gaze seems far-reaching. Watching the faces of those around us . . . some are shouting and screaming in excitement . . . others are crying and seem to be praying. They appear awed by it all. As we continue down the main street of the city toward the Temple, many are watching from their windows and doorways. Some appear just as excited as the crowd . . . others look frightened and troubled . . . still others look quite displeased.

Thoughts are racing . . . “Why would people, so excited about Jesus one day, not trust Him a few days later?  Are they here because they really believe He is their Messiah?  Did they come because a friend asked them to?  Or could it be that all the hoopla just feels good?  Did some come hoping to see a miracle . . . perhaps their own malady healed?”  

I should know better by now--just start questioning others’ motives--looking at the splinters in their eyes--and I find the plank in my own replaced by a timber.  My thoughts become a prayer of repentance as I consider how often the words “Oh, just trust in the Lord,” roll off my lips to encourage others, but fail to find a place in my own heart when I am faced with adversities.  How often do I join in prayer and worship because I feel obliged to do so?  Is the Lord speaking to me thru the words of Scripture that say, “This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from Me”?[1]  Do I really seek GOD in prayer or only His consolations so that I can feel good?  Am I more likely to be faithful in prayer when I really need God’s help, but can’t find the time when things are going well, even to thank Him? . . . . . . . . Will I continue to follow Him when my joy turns to sorrow . . . when the light I see becomes darkness . . . when I must leave my mountain top and walk in the valley of death?   Will I continue to follow Him when His river of life-giving water seems to dry up and I find myself in the desert of my God . . . when I no longer feel His presence . . . only His absence; when I no longer feel anything and I find only Nothing? 

For a few moments, all thoughts are stilled . . . silence, only silence fills my being. I'm lost in the stillness. There are no feelings, no words, no thoughts, no images . . . just the silence.

Emerging from the silence, I know that I am one with this crowd and that, on my own, I will be no more faithful in following the Lord than they were. Even so, there is an awareness--a blessed assurance--rising from deep within that I have been given all I need to be faithful by the One who is always faithful.

Suddenly the procession stops; we've reached the Temple. Some who oppose Jesus have arrived, and the crowd quickly begins to disperse. Jesus dismounts and instructs his apostles to feed and water the colt. He does not appear to be intimidated by the opposition and takes time to speak briefly to several people nearby. Then Jesus turns and beckons me to come with Him. No words are spoken; we walk together for a short distance. As we turn down a back street, Jesus breaks the silence. “I want you to see something.” Before us is a small stable; we enter. Inside is the colt that Jesus rode. He goes over to the colt, strokes its forehead, and pats the colt's shoulder. “Well done! . . . Well done!”

Jesus turns, looks into my eyes . . . “I invited you here today so that you could better understand my call to you. Since you accepted my invitation to come, my Holy Spirit has been guiding your thoughts; yes, even under the oak tree. Do you know this is a very special colt--unlike any other? Oh, yes, he is a ‘beast of burden’ like all of his kind; but today, his ‘burden’ was the Savior, and his task--that for which he was born--was to carry the Savior among God’s people. In the village he was tethered; but I sent my apostles to untie him and bring him to Me. Every person, indeed every created thing, is unique and has a special purpose in My Father’s plan. But many will never realize that purpose because they are not free. They, too, are tethered . . . held captive by invisible chains of selfishness, feelings of worthlessness, the effects of prejudice and injustice, the ravages of disease and hunger . . . especially hunger for love. Only love can break those chains. Then, and only then, can My people become all they were created to be. Only then will they REALLY be free and understand their special place in My Father’s plan! Do you understand?”

“Look at this colt. As he was My ‘beast of burden’ today, I ask you now if you will be My ‘beast of burden’ for all the tomorrows of your life? Thru My love, you have found freedom. Will you now ‘carry’ Me into the lives of those still held captive that they too might find the freedom they long for? Will you love them with My love? . . . Will you carry them in their pain and suffering? . . . Will you enter into their pain and allow it to become your own? . . . For this is the love that breaks chains. Thru the words of the prophet Isaiah, I call you . . .”

“I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice,

        I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you,

     and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations,

        To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement,
 
                      and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”[2]

"Will you now accept My call? If your answer is ‘yes’. . . bring me your heart . . . I will replace it with My own!”

[1] Matthew 15:8, The New Jerusalem Bible, Reader’s Edition (New York, N.Y.: Doubleday a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1990).

[2] Isaiah 42:6-7, The New American Bible (Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers, 1986).