Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Orchestrating Events

We enter the last week of lent, when we read of the events in that last week of Jesus’ life before the cross. It is a week of intense emotion and many texts well worth reading. Because of the immense amount of texts, I must forego my usual process of parsing verbs and declining nouns closely during this week. I do, however, want to focus very closely on two specific portions of the week’s readings – the preparations that Jesus directs for the entry into Jerusalem and the paschal supper with his disciples. What is striking to me is how Luke describes Jesus as being the “event planner” or “community organizer” of these events.

The events themselves are quite different. The entry into Jerusalem is a large scale even, open to everyone with very little control over who shows up and even less control over how the participants interpret the moment. The last supper is a smaller event, with specific people gathered and Jesus giving close attention to interpreting what the meal means.

There are intriguing similarities and differences in how Jesus orchestrates both events:
-          He sends two of the disciples; anonymous in one case, Peter and John in the other;
-          Using two different command words for “go,” he instructs them where to go;
-          (One pair goes to the next village; the other goes into “the city” of Jerusalem);
-          Using two different words for ‘tell,’ He tells the sent ones what they will find/see;
-          (One pair finds a tied-up colt; the other will be met by a man carrying a jug of water);
-          Using two different words for “say” (ἐρεῖτε and Λέγει) he tells them what to say;
-          Using two different titles for himself (Ὁ κύριος and ὁ διδάσκαλος) they act in his name;
-          Those whom the pairs encounter go along – perhaps having been pre-arranged;
-          Each sent pair finds it exactly as Jesus said they would in parallel comments:
19:32             ἀπελθόντες δὲ οἱ ἀπεσταλμένοι εὗρον καθὼς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς
Then having gone the ones he sent found just as he said to them.
22:13a           ἀπελθόντες δὲ εὗρον καθὼς εἰρήκει αὐτοῖς
Then having gone, they found it just as he said to them,

What are we to make of these parts of the story of Jesus’ last week? Perhaps the parallel accounts of event planning are Luke’s way of assuring us that Jesus was acting deliberately, following an intentional plan, rather than simply the victim of the events that followed. We know from the previous announcements that Jesus has every intention of going to Jerusalem knowing that he was to die there. Now we see even more expressly that Jesus deliberately rode into Jerusalem on a fresh colt and that he very deliberately intended to have that last meal with his disciples just as it happened. The church has routinely embraced the deliberate nature of the last meal, by calling it an “institution” and by demanding precision in how we go about the performance of its re-enactment as well as in how we describe the meaning of the supper theologically. (In my humble opinion, we spend way too much time and energy trying to nail down this precision!) But, Luke invites us to see the entry into Jerusalem as another highly orchestrated and deliberate occasion – even it is less scripted, less crowd-controlled, and much more open to interpretation. Are the people who gather to participate right or wrong when they yell, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”? How important are crowd-sourcing moments like the entry into Jerusalem, with spontaneous expressions and open-ended theology? How do the smaller, controlled and interpreted events complement the larger, chaotic and open-ended events? How do both events fit into the life of the church, who is called to follow Jesus as disciples?

I find these parallel orchestrations to be fascinating. The verse-by-verse details are below.

May this week be a blessing to you and a moment of bringing the life, death, and resurrection of Christ into your world.

For a detailed exegesis of Luke 19:28-40, see my post A Man on a Colt with No Name

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