A man – working class – goes about his days, using his skills to keep food on his family’s table. His wife, using her skills, adds to his paltry income by baking extra bread to sell at market, while also baking the daily bread their family breaks and shares at meals.
They are hard pressed. Roman rule has done well to keep them in their place – poor, meager, lowly. They are faithful to their God, but the religious leaders of their day see to it that every letter of the Law is followed and then some, pressing them in further. So much, they live nearly suffocated, learning to exist with little – little bread, little breath, little life.
Recently, however, there has been a Teacher come to town. He is good friends with one of the family’s neighbors – three siblings living together, two sisters and a brother. He has come several times to visit, and when he comes, he teaches to anyone who will listen. The man takes advantage, for part of being hard pressed is looking always for Hope. His wife, also hard pressed, often bakes extra bread – at no charge – to take over, just for the chance to look in His eyes and hear what His heart is speaking to her. She tells her husband she is just trying to help that poor haggard sister, always so tired from entertaining since the other sister only sits at the Teacher’s feet; but they both know she, too, is looking only for Hope.
They have seen and heard much since the Teacher has come. His teachings, often told in story, are heard by their souls, straight past their ears and minds – a difference they cannot explain but share with others who know it, too. Then there are the miracles – ones they both have heard and seen with their own eyes: Making bread and fish enough for over 5,000 people; returning sight to the blind; causing the lame to walk. Of course, there were magicians who would come around – all claiming their powers to heal and channel any god who will help, but the Teacher was different. He came with no pomp and circumstance about him, no gaudiness. Besides, he always said to the one he healed, “Go, your sins are forgiven,” as though forgiving sins was more important, and the healing just an afterthought.
Then there was the time – only recently – when one of the neighbor siblings died. It was the brother. Everyone in town grieved and despaired. The sisters were beyond themselves in sadness. The man’s wife bore their grief by baking extra and throwing herself into consoling the living sisters.
Finally, after four days, the Teacher came. He spoke gently to the sisters. He asked to be taken to the tomb. He wept. Only His weeping seemed to come from a different grief – mourning death, yes – but death beyond death. Both the man and his wife watched the weeping, hearing it down to their bones. Then, the Teacher spoke. The neighbor didn’t stay dead. The Teacher told him to get up – and he did.
Now, this same Teacher is riding to the city beyond on a young donkey. Everyone in town is astir with the excitement of it. Even the man has put down his tools and his wife left her oven cold, to join the impromptu celebration. He cut down branches from nearby trees for his family to carry and wave. His children instinctively know what to do.“Hosanna! “ “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
As the colt carries the Teacher forward, cloaks are thrown in front of him. The branches laid down. Now the Teacher and his ride are walking atop a royal carpet made by the meager – given from their backs, taken from their shade. There is more shouting, more praising, more Hosannas! from men, women and children alike. The rabbi – other religious teachers like the Teacher, but not really – in the crowd are frowning, even scowling and angry at all this attention being lavished on one Man. They try hushing the children, appealing to the man and his wife. When this doesn’t work, they yell at the Teacher:
“Teacher! Rebuke your disciples!”
The Teacher only looks at them with a sad smile, then grows sober and says,
“I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
In that moment, despite the noise and commotion, the man hears his wife whispering at his right side:“Rejoice greatly O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, Righteous and having salvation, Gentle and riding on a donkey, On a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (see note at end)
He looks at her. Tears stream down her face, following the lines of her jaw, wetting the creases around her nose. She doesn’t bother wiping them away, only stares after the Teacher, repeating the ancient promise as if held by a place beyond this place. Her husband follows her gaze just as the Teacher turns his head from the chaos and looks into her eyes. He smiles again, but this smile is light and life.
The man now gently pulls her away from the crowds. He holds her close and wipes her tears, his rough hands scratching her cheeks, despite his gentle efforts. They say nothing at all. The Teacher and the crowd move on. Even their children continue following the melee of merriment.
Only those two remain. Standing in their Hope.“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, And he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar You are my God and I will give you thanks; You are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, For he is good; His love endures forever” – Psalms 118: 26-27 Some things of interest:
- The traditional mount for kings in the ancient Near East was the donkey. Rather than a horse, which symbolizes war, power and human pride, the donkey offers a picture of peace and humility. Christ riding a colt (young donkey) furthers this symbolization.
- The word “Hosanna” originated as a prayer for the ancient Hebrews. It means “save now, pray,” but by the time of Roman rule, the word had become generic and was often used as a “hail” or “praise” to one being honored. The Old Testament meaning, however, was a plea for salvation.
- The passage quoted by the woman come from Zechariah 9:9, one of the Old Testament’s prophetic books.
I have obviously taken a road less traveled in this post… is a devotional? Is it a story? My husband said to me laughing, “It’s Jesus’ triumphal entry according to Shari!” Maybe. Though the man and his wife are fictional, the neighbors, the miracles and the words in quotes are not. I have always learned best from story.
Before tomorrow, I hope you will find some quiet time to consider:
What do you hope for in this life – your life? Do you hope for that which this world cannot provide or are you satisfied in the attainments of the man-made? Have you dared to hope for something you are powerless to provide yet unwilling to let go of hoping?
I hope so.