Ridden and Untied

 After he [Jesus] 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 19:29-40 NRSV

 

If it’s repeated, it must be important.

If it’s repeated, it must be important

I had a seminary professor who was rather fond of telling us this. And it is a helpful bit of advice when reading the Bible. As is the question, “Why is the author telling us this?”

“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?’”

So what is going on with all the references to untying the colt?

Four times in two verses.

If it’s repeated…

And why does Jesus need a colt now? Jesus seems to have mostly walked places but now he needs a colt?

Scholars tell us that Rome routinely sent soldiers into Jerusalem during the Passover in case the Jews, an occupied people celebrating a liberation in their past, might  think that they deserved liberation in their present circumstances. And of course, conquering armies and kings entered cities in horseback processions.

Perhaps Jesus rides into Jerusalem to present an alternative to the Empire’s presence. Jesus’ riding into Jerusalem on a colt can be seen as a parody, a piece of performance art, even a mockery of the Empire’s power.

But still, why does Luke keep telling us (four times!) about untying the colt? Why are the disciples sent to untie an unridden, an unbroken colt?

Why the focus on the colt?  Unbroken colts are unpredictable. The first ride is a new experience, a novel event. From the colt’s perspective, it may all be quite unsettling- frightening even. At the same time, you’re not going anywhere if you remain tied up.

I wonder if in the midst of describing Jesus entry into Jerusalem as historical event and theological statement, the author is also prompting us to a more subtle reflection. Perhaps there is more going on here than simply untying an unridden colt?

Are we to think about what else need to be untied?

Why is being unridden important?

What is being untied ,set loose, then and now?

What is “unridden”, new, unexpected, and perhaps unsettling, these days?

What needs to be untied for you to participate in, to practice resurrection?

Can finding, untying, and riding our own “unridden colt” help us practice resurrection?

 

This post was written for the 2019 Westminster Presbyterian Church (Grand Rapids MI) Lenten Devotional.

 

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