Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Fetching a Colt

In preparation for Palm Sunday, I was reading the lectionary text for this week. As I studied the text, I noticed a few key words that point us toward discernment. Luke records Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in Luke 19:28ff. He begins,

(Luke 19:28 NIV) After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

It is easy to breeze past this without noticing a key word. Where is Jesus? He is leading the way. The Greek word emprosthen is translated as before in the KJV, ahead in other versions. Jesus knows where he is going. He knows what he is going to do. The disciples are following. This might seem simple, but this is a profound message. Too often, we are walking ahead of Jesus. We ask God to join us on our ventures. As we function as discerning churches, we must continually let Jesus be ahead of us.

As we follow the story, Jesus instructs his disciples.

(Luke 19:29-31 NIV) As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

Is Jesus telling his disciples to steal the colt? What might the owner think? Jesus’ instructions must have seemed strange. I wonder how much the disciples questioned the directive. Luke does not record much dialog here; it seems that they willingly go along with the plan. In the next few verses, everything plays out exactly as Jesus described.

(Luke 19:32-34 NIV) Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

I have read this story many times; I generally move on the part where Jesus enters the city riding on the colt. Yet is seems worth pausing here for a moment. The disciples must have looked back on this event with wonderment; the colt’s owner did exactly what Jesus said he would do. The disciples spoke the words Jesus advised them to say and there seems to be no resistance on the part of the owner. The colt would play a key role in God’s mission. But I am not sure the disciples would have understood the implications at the time.

As we think about this story, we are challenged to maintain the posture of the disciples. They are allowing Jesus to lead and are willing to follow him into the unknown. They likely had various expectations of this trip to Jerusalem. Yet they follow in obedience and trust. When Jesus tells them to fetch a colt, they do. When he gives them the words to say, they speak.

May God clearly reveal His direction for us as we submit to his leadership. May we be cognizant of the need to continually discern his leading. May we be careful to not step ahead, allowing God to lead the way. May we have the courage to embrace his intent for our ministries and our lives.