March 2024

‘say, “The Lord has need of them”, and he will send them’. Matthew 21.3 (RSV)

This Saying of Christ’s precedes His Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem.  It forms part of His request that a donkey (in some versions also her colt) be brought to Him for the journey that will lead to His death.  In Mark’s version (11), as in Luke’s (19), a further detail is added: the colt is unridden. John (12) makes brief mention of it too, focusing on the prophecy from Zechariah 9.9 that Christ fulfils: ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt!'.

Matthew also mentions Zechariah, emphasising that this king rides to Zion (i.e. Jerusalem) gently and in peace.  These animals then, are not as simple as they might appear; they signify the fulfilment of Jewish Messianic prophecy.

Yet this Saying is also about ordinary daily choices, for even prophetic fulfilment has to start somewhere.  The donkeys unwittingly fulfil God’s ultimate purpose for His world.  When did you last notice God’s will being fulfilled around you, perhaps even because of you? May you experience much joy as you ponder this …

It is also a Saying about sight.  Immediately beforehand, Christ heals the blind. Here He himself foresees obstacles (this Saying calms an owner’s potential protest).  Contrast the objections of adults to the clear-sighted perception of the Temple children’s joyful shouting: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’. Jesus deliberately reminds the authorities using Psalm 8.2 that ‘ “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise” ’ (Matt 21.15-16).  Children can sometimes see and say what adults are not able to. 

For March’s Saying is ultimately about faith.  References to prophecy, the Psalms and generations of spiritual tradition imply a lineage of firm belief that the longed-for Messiah will come.  Now here, quite simply, He is; His appearance unlikely, inconveniently humble and requiring a reimagination of the Kingdom.  He calls all of us to be unafraid of following simple paths if we believe they are God-given and to be unafraid of seeing what, and whom, is God-sent.  Let us trust His call this March perhaps especially when, like the colt, we cannot see the bigger picture.  The next simple Kingdom-fulfilling request God makes could be of us.