“Untie the Colt”

“Untie the Colt”
Palm Sunday 
Dr. Bobby Hulme-Lippert
March 28, 2021 

James Bentz was one of the people inside King Scoopers grocery store when the shots began to fire last Monday. He was later interviewed in the parking lot, and he said something that has stuck with me: 

“It seemed like all of us had imagined we’d be in a situation like this at some point in our lives.” 

And while I know the actual odds of being involved in that kind of scene are not high, and yet I confess I know exactly what Mr. Bentz was saying. It seems we live in a time that for all the pain and shock and horror of each of these events…’surprise’ is not a word we use. 

“It seemed like all of us had imagined we’d be here at some point.” 

And that in and of itself is… heartbreaking. 

For it is admitting at some level we are resigned to this, we are cynical about change, we are not sure we see hope for change. 

I think that sentiment weighs on many in our day whether actively or somehow on the back burner of our soul…but that… 

coupled then with any number of things going on in our own lives or this country or this world… all of it continues to weigh a bit like this gray day upon us – and it makes us all-the-more eager for Palm Sunday. 

(Not that we simply want Palm Sunday or like Palm Sunday but…) 

  • We need Jesus to ride as King against all that is broken and gridlocked and overwhelming and has us otherwise resigned… 
  • We need one who comes riding in to save us from ourselves and from one another…
  • We sense keenly that need a fresh procession of living hope in this world.

And absolutely, we are ready to join with the crowds and lay down our coats and wave our branches and shout words of praise to Jesus who leads the procession. 

And yet that’s not quite where Mark invites us to be this morning. Not centrally at least. 

The part of the story that many are familiar with on this Sunday – where Jesus rides in and the people praise him…Mark’s Gospel tells that part via three rather understated verses in the passage. That’s it. 

But, that whole first part of the story that we usually don’t know what to do with? That part where we get all the detailed ins and outs of untying a colt for Jesus to ride upon? 

That portion takes a full and even somewhat repetitive seven verses filled. 

And we should know…Mark’s Gospel is famous for how concisely it narrates the stories of Jesus. And in the few instances where Mark becomes verbose or even repetitive, the reader is meant to pay attention. Those are the spots where Mark is underscoring something or communicating something of central importance. 

When it comes to our 11 verses of Scripture today where Jesus enters Jerusalem, primarily Mark wants us in the verbose section. The part where the colt is untied. Why? Why make so much of something so little? 

In part, the colt emphasizes this king comes, as Zechariah prophesied, “victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Typically, in that time a king would enter a city riding upon a horse and so visually make clear his power, his prowess, his victorious ways. 

Jesus, in keeping with Scripture from Zechariah, comes upon a far humbler animal and one in that time that, if chosen by a king or prince, would communicate not war and power…but peace. The colt is an animal that makes clear that this king does things a different way. 

This is… 

  • A king who overcomes by washing feet. 
  • A king who comes “not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” 
  • A kingdom in which blessed are the peacemakers. 

And so having us spend time focused on the untying of the colt invites us to slow down and first remember the kind of king we follow and the kind of kingdom we’re about, and the kind of kingdom we believe shall not be overcome. But also, paying attention to 

the untying of the colt is meant to show us our place in the story if the story is to bring hope to us and this world. 

We look again at these seven verses, and we note those two unnamed disciples. They have no names because they could be any disciple. They could be you and me. We are meant to find ourselves with them. As them. 

And they – we – are told: “Go into the village ahead of you where immediately you’ll find a colt that has never been ridden. Untie that colt and bring it.” 

It is as unremarkable and unheralded a task as it gets. It’s just a colt. 

And yet, again, that colt is a sign of something central to the kingdom of God. It is a sign of humbleness. It is a proclamation of peace. And so by untying it, the disciples are freeing the something that declares the nearness of the Prince of Peace. 

“Untie that colt. Because that colt declares the presence of peace; the gift of peace.” 

What if that was Jesus’ word to us today? 

What if in this time where it is so easy to become resigned to the next terrible thing, cynical about everybody’s motives and every way forward…what if in this time where we often despair as to what to do or say because it all seems either overwhelming or impossible… What if Jesus is ushering in a new hope through this simple command: “untie the colt.” 

“Release the thing that will declare a word of peace in these times.” 

What might be that colt the Lord has prepared for you to release? 

  • Maybe our colt is a gift God has given us and we know from experience that every time it is released there is a wholeness, a peace, a goodness that goes forth? That the colt Jesus is pointing toward today? 
  • Or maybe the colt is a letter or a prayer or a call or a form of advocacy or some form of courage that does its part to bring a healing. Is that the colt?
  • Maybe the colt need not be a gift of a good thing…maybe it’s a hard thing. Maybe our colt is something in the past that keeps weighing upon us – and it’s that that needs release. Needs forgiveness so that peace can break forth. Is that the colt?
  • Maybe what we need to untie – and really untangle given how wound it probably is – maybe it’s all the anxiety in our hearts lately? Because until we let go of that we are not a person or presence of peace in this world.

Bottom line: what is the thing that is tied or bound or wound in a tangle right now…but if we risked untying it and bringing it to Jesus it would, in fact, declare the nearness of the Prince of Peace in this world literally aching for that gift? 

I think Mark is making clear that if we actually understand what Jesus’ procession is all about and what kind of king he is and what kind of kingdom he is about…then we will spend most of our days not standing alongside the procession but untying one colt after another somewhere in the background – trusting that the way of unheralded sacrifice will in fact forever change the world for good. 

What needs to be untied? Released? What is our colt? 

Do you know the name Meyers Leonard? A month ago, he was an NBA basketball player for the Miami Heat. He was playing a video game and was caught on livestream using some pretty rough and hateful language about Jewish people. The kind of language that immediately brings to the fore that deep history of being discriminated against, scapegoated, exiled, and murdered en masse. 

He was quickly called out by a host of individuals and outlets and also by the team, owned by a Jewish family. They suspended him and then traded him. 

The team he was traded to soon cut him. Amid all this, in fact very soon after all this came out, he apologized. 

Then the story takes this surprising twist. Julian Edelman is a fairly well-known wide receiver for the New England Patriots. And he writes an Open Letter to Myers Leonard and posts it on social media. And Julian Edelman is Jewish. 

He writes: 

“So we’ve never met. I hope we can one day soon. I’m sure you’ve been getting a lot of criticism for what you said. Not trying to add to that, just trying to offer some perspective. I get the sense that you didn’t use that word out of hate, more out of ignorance. Most likely, you weren’t trying to hurt anyone or even profile Jews in your comment. That’s what makes it so destructive. When someone intends to be hateful, it’s usually met with great resistance. Casual ignorance is harder to combat and has greater reach, especially when you command great influence. Hate is like a virus. Even accidentally, it can rapidly spread.”

Edelman makes it clear Leonard is playing far too fast and loose with the virus of hate. 

And then these final three sentences of the open letter: 

“I’m down in Miami fairly often. Let’s do a Shabbat dinner with some friends. I’ll show you a fun time.” 

In this world where our words are so often our weapons of warfare against one another, Edelman releases the colt. In this case, it is his table released and opened unto one who has hurt him and his people – and so witnesses to peace. 

We gather this morning with countless reasons why we are more than ready for the Risen King to come riding through in glory and power and do something about so much that we carry in our day. 

But the truth is, if we really get what Jesus and his kingdom are all about and how it works, then most of our days will be spent doing the unheralded, world-changing work of untying colts. 

Releasing anything and everything that declares that the Prince of Peace is near, the gift of peace is come. 

And should someone ask “Why are you doing this?” “Why are you untying this, releasing this, giving this up, forgiving this person, risking this gift…why are you doing this?” 

Jesus has given us the answer in our passage. 

“The Lord needs it.” 

The Lord needs his followers to untie the colts. And honestly, so does the world so short on hope these days. The world needs his followers to untie the colts. For each one released declares that the Prince of Peace is come near. 

What is your colt? (Untie the colt). Amen. 

About Dr. Bobby Hulme-Lippert