With A Little Help From Our Friends

With A Little Help From Our Friends

When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus, and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. Now as he was approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Luke 19:29-40 (NRSVUE)

Jesus knew that his days were numbered, and I’m sure that he was tired. As of today’s story, he just wanted to get to Jerusalem. After all, that’s what he’d been trying to do for weeks though he knew that what he would be facing there would be far from easy. The good news, however, is that Jesus, like us, did not walk the road alone. He had his friends, the disciples. And though they didn’t fully understand what was going on, and they definitely didn’t understand what would be happening in the next week, they tried their best to be good friends.

Folks, I wonder, have you ever had a group of friends like that? Friends that might not always get it right, but friends that will be there for you through thick and thin? Many times, we find friends like that when we are in high school or college. Maybe because we are not as busy with our own lives and families, and we connect on a different level. Though sometimes, we find friends like that through work, in the neighborhood where we live, in a mom’s group, through a club with people that have similar interests as us, or even here in church. But the really great friends are the ones that will follow you anywhere. They laugh with you and cry with you. They talk or text with you after midnight when you are struggling with something, and when someone asks you how you’re doing, and you answer, “Fine,” they know when you’re really not. Having friends like that can be a true gift!

Now friends like that can’t fix the world for you though they sometimes think they can, and they sometimes get you in more trouble than you would get in on your own. They are your biggest fans and supporters whether they agree with what you’re doing or not because they truly love you unconditionally. Well, the disciples were kind of like that for Jesus. Now Jesus was their Rabbi–their teacher–but they were devoted to him like good friends are devoted to each other. They traveled far and wide with Jesus as he taught and healed the crowds, also teaching and healing the disciples themselves. And that day as Jesus was getting ready to enter the city of Jerusalem for the last time, his friends, the disciples, were there to help him. They followed his direction and got the young colt or donkey that Jesus had asked them to get, and they put their cloaks on it so that Jesus would have a more comfortable ride. Then they headed off with him into Jerusalem.

As many of you know, I have a group of friends from college, and we are still very close. We all lived together at Rhode Island College in Weber Hall, Suite A. That’s why, more than thirty-five years later, we still refer to ourselves as the “Suite A Girls.” The nine of us are very different people, living very different lives, but we have walked many, many roads together through weddings and raising children, some have divorced, and one is widowed. We have bought and sold houses, changed jobs, struggled with finances, and gotten promotions. We’ve sent our kids off to kindergarten and to college and into the military, and more recently, a few of us have even become grandmothers. Like any friends, sometimes we go for a few months without seeing each other, but as soon as we reconnect, it’s like we were never apart. And there is a strange mystery about this group because somehow, as a group of women in our fifties, when we get together, we feel like we are in our twenties again.

But, over the years, things have not always been rainbows and sunshine, as they say. Our friendships are real, and we have faced real-life struggles. There have been times when we have not been truthful with each other. There are times when we have talked about each other behind their backs. There have been times when some of us have abandoned the group for years, at a time when life brought us in other directions. And a few of us were even betrayed by a member of our group. But through it all, we’ve never given up on each other. We work through our conflicts and forgive each other when we need to. We stick together through hard times and support one another when the world seems to spin too fast or when our lives feel like they are falling apart.

Two years ago, our group of nine became a group of eight after the passing of one of our Suite A girls. Sure, we were overcome by grief, and each of us worked through the process a little differently, but we stuck together and supported each other just the same. Because we know that through thick and thin, through ups and downs, through disappointments and celebrations, life is always easier “with a little help from our friends.”

Jesus knew his disciples weren’t perfect, just like I know my Suite A girls aren’t either. But as we learned from our online Lenten devotional this year, beauty is often found in the imperfections of life. Life isn’t supposed to be perfect; it’s supposed to be real.

As Jesus rode into the city on the back of a donkey that day, people began to shout, “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!” “Hosanna!” is an expression of joy, adoration, and praise to God, but it also means “Save us, we pray!” They waved palm branches in the air and laid their cloaks on the ground in front of Jesus. They were treating Jesus like a king because they knew he was one. Many who had gathered knew nothing about Jesus, but they did know their scriptures. And they were excited because they believed that the words of the prophet Zechariah were coming true! “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey!”

The only problem was many in the crowd thought that Jesus would be the next head of the Roman Empire, not the one chosen to bring the Kingdom of God closer to earth, and that made the Pharisees very nervous. Scripture says: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Folks, we all know that when a crowd is excited about something, mob mentality takes over. Just like when good friends are standing up for one of their own, there is often no backing down.

Friends, the truth is, life is hard, and we all need friends, especially those friends who are always there to support us and cheer us on, even when they don’t fully understand what we are going through. The disciples continued to walk with Jesus throughout Holy Week, but as we know, their behavior was far from perfect. Even though Jesus taught them, healed them, and fed them, they didn’t fully understand him. They fell asleep when they should have been watching out for him. Then one of them betrayed Jesus, another one denied him, and eventually, they all abandoned him, at least for a little while. But Jesus knew that they were human. He knew that they were not created to be perfect. But he also knew that they had good hearts, and they tried hard to be good followers and friends, and that is why Jesus called them, to begin with.

Eventually, those same disciples who didn’t fully understand Jesus and fell asleep when they should have been watching out for him, the same ones that denied him and abandoned him, also devoted their lives to him, like loving followers and friends. They never gave up, but instead, they went on to tell the whole entire world about him.

So brothers and sisters in Christ, as you prepare to walk through this Holy Week, think of the people who walked before you, those who will be beside you, and even those who will walk after you. Remember to have a friend, you need to be a friend. And don’t forget that none of us are perfect, but we are all doing the best that we can. And if you are blessed enough to have a group of friends to walk the journey of life with you, don’t be judgmental of the things they don’t do or even the mistakes they make. Instead, focus on the beauty within their imperfection because the journey is always a little easier to walk ”with a little help from our friends.”

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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