“When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”
This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet: Tell Zion’s daughter, “Look, your king’s on his way, poised and ready, mounted On a donkey, on a colt, foal of a pack animal.”
The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”
Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants.
He quoted this text: My house was designated a house of prayer; You have made it a hangout for thieves.
Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them. As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?” The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.””
Matthew 21:1-14 MSG
This is my 45th Palm Sunday. With very few exceptions, I have been in church on this day my entire life. I have read this story countless times. I have walked on this street in Jerusalem and imagined this scene. I have participated in waving, displaying, collecting, drying and preparing the palm branches. And yet it took this long for me to see it. I read this story this morning in my pjs at home. Before I did, I intentionally took a deep breath, as if I knew I needed oxygen that I didn’t have.
I wonder if you can relate today? My breath has felt shallow at times these past few weeks. I have struggled to allow oxygen to feed the rational and stillness producing cells in my being. In these moments of chaos, my words have been erratic. My tendency has been toward panic and my thoughts have become blame filled and destructive.
There are times that I am proud of my holy discontent. It has been used for good in shaping more open spaces, more inclusive circles and more generous actions. I have used many of the stories of and the teachings of Jesus as my basis for righteous indignation. One of those stories is this moment in the temple. What I had failed to connect until today is that in Matthew’s gospel this happened on Palm Sunday. Jesus went from the branch waving party “straight to the temple” and got his fiery rebel-rouser on. I have always focused on the party of this day. But as any good challenging advocate will tell you, parties are short lived when there is work to do.
My insight hardly stopped there. Keep reading. Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. I know that this is a paraphrase version of the text. I know. But, I needed THESE particular words today. Especially the first one: NOW. It was because of Jesus’s table turning fit, because he kicked out the thieves and deceivers, NOW there was room for healing.
I sit on Palm Sunday of Holy Week in a season of spiritual house cleaning. I have had the fits. I have had the anger. And because I do those emotions and feelings so naturally, I know they are not gone forever. They will return. In the meantime, because I have turned over some tables and kicked some of the thieves out of my soul space, I have room for the brokenness. I have room for the questions and doubts and the healing. I now have space to drag my tired and worn out body into the temple.
I’m going to sit in the house of prayer that I have created space for this week. I may not have words. I’m sure I won’t have answers. I may not understand the reasons, but I will be there. And this is only possible because I have made space. So if you need permission to flip some tables, my friends, you have it. This day is not just about crowds and parades and celebrations. On this day, while the kids ran through the temple waving their branches, Jesus was deviating from the social norms and cleaning house. May that be our call today. Flip that shame table over. Kick over that belief that you are not smart enough, religious enough or faithful enough to be in the temple. YOU BELONG. I BELONG. And If anyone tries to tell you that you don’t, send them my way. I still have enough holy frustration to break a table over their thieving back.