As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” – Matthew 21:1-11 NIV
It’s Not About The Parade
To most, this is no secret passage. Nestled in the book of Matthew, it is the story most visited on Palm Sunday and several songs like “Hosanna in the Highest” were derived from it. It is a simple, yet deep, depiction of Jesus coming to Jerusalem as King. Of course, the Jewish people desired an earthly king, not an eternal One; but, like with most plans we humans have mapped out — God always has a better option.
This morning I’m up early (on my day off…weirdo) and all the boys are still in bed (when does that ever happen?), but my husband will be awake soon for his morning run. I made some hot chocolate because the espresso machine (also referred to as the Holy Grail in this house) is noisy and can cause the minions to stir. [On a total side note: each of my boys are well-trained in the art of coffee-making, putting up their own laundry, and Lego assembly. The next generation will be better for it. Mamas of boys: train them in the way they should go.]
Recently, I was lying in bed and my husband was sharing his most recent “truth” he learned in Ezekiel about how we can’t allow the circumstances of this world to distract us from the ministry God has called us to carry out. Ironically, earlier that same morning I shared with some of my closest girlfriends in prayer that the ministry was mentally tasking me and I was tired. The good kind of tired, but tired nonetheless.
As I laid there thinking and praying, this recurring phrase went through my mind: it’s not about the parade. I (kinda) knew what God was trying to patiently unpack for me. Originally, I’m from a small town in Kansas. Right between the city park, the community college campus, and the elementary school I attended was this old, historic red brick road. It’s since-then been replaced with pavement, but we’ll just pretend it’s still there. Nowadays, that road is a common parade path for Christmas holidays and the annual Katy Days. Parades are fun – lots of smiles, waving, horses, dancing, fun floats, and candy throwing. But parades only happen a couple times a year. When the parade isn’t going on, it’s just the bland coming and going of life. In the case of my hometown, it’s folks walking around the park getting their morning air, kids hustling across the crosswalk to get to school, older students loading their backpacks with books and pens to listen to the professor lecture…and potholes. Potholes in the road, candy trash in the gutter, horse poop in the middle of the bricked street, and no music coming through the amphitheater speakers.
Where Life Is Lived
The other 363-ish days on those worn-out streets is typical, every day traffic and this is where we are asked to spend the majority of our life here on earth…among the normalcy of motion where there’s no special attention or big event. But, I think the point God was trying to make to me late that night was that even in the coming and going, I can choose to smile, wave, dance, and throw candy. I will also need to pick up trash, shovel horse poop, and repair potholes. However, we each have a choice on what we are going to focus on and it doesn’t mean we’ll feel like going out there and being awesome every day of the week.
It’s important to remind yourself that you are seen. When you rise early, He is poised and ready for conversation. When you choose to walk someone across an intersection of life, He smiles. When you scoop up the pile of you-know-what off the street (and gag), it’s enough. And when someone randomly passes by and you hand them a piece of candy (you know, the really yummy kind like a mini Snickers), you can feel His pleasure. That is where life is lived.
This past year, some incredibly dear friends of ours received the news you just never want to hear. It’s deeply sobering, yet incredibly inspiring all at the same time. And at that moment as I read the text message, you realize (again) life isn’t about the parade. We’re uniquely given these reality checks from time-to-time that cause us to tumble awkwardly into the street, twist our ankle, and leave us feeling embarrassed and alone. And in those moments, we become so thankful for the folks who we see up early, smiling, stopping the poop shoveling to help dust us off, and giving us a delicious Snickers bar (and maybe a cup of coffee, too). Those are the actions — when the parade isn’t going on — that really matter.
This old, brick road of life is mangled and chipped and needs to be repaved in gold. But that time hasn’t come yet, so we need to walk it out, shake it off, and constantly remind ourselves that life happens in between the parade.
Jesus’ Ministry Summit
Just look back at Matthew 21 and you’ll see the same to be true of Jesus. His ministry summit wasn’t the day he was ushered into Jerusalem on a donkey with palm branches as His red carpet. His ultimate gain happened a week later when He was atrociously beaten and mocked and hung to die alone. And that is the cross we are given to bear that it talks about in Matthew 16:24 – the cross that denies the daily parade this world tries to thrust upon us.
This broken world is well-versed at pounding us with parade-events. It’s supposed to be glam and love and travel and stuff because those things make for a great show. But you know, that isn’t where life is truly spent. Life is most alive in the white-space between our calendar appointments. It exists in the margins we create, typically while wearing an old college t-shirt and our favorite comfy pants with no make-up. It’s acted out during the other 363-ish days when the parade isn’t happening.
So where does that leave us? What do we do to focus less on the parade and more on the rest of the year? Good thing God knew we’d need some direction to answer that, and Paul gives us this encouragement in Romans 12:1-2:
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
[And I just heard two of the minions open their door…let the non-parade day begin. Now, I go find my favorite baristas and have my coffee.]