Operatives, Standing By
They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. – Mark 11:4-6 (NRSV)
What are we to make of these bystanders? They see someone stealing someone else’s ride, and they do the right thing. “What are you doing?!” they yell, running over to intervene. They know how expensive donkeys are. They know it’s our job to watch out for each other.
“No, it’s fine!” these two strangers say. “The Lord needs it and is gonna send it right back; Scout’s honor.”
“Cool cool cool,” the bystanders say, and wander off.
What in the world? Why intervene with sketchy characters behaving sketchily, only to be put off by the flimsiest of explanations? Were the bystanders only interested in protecting their own consciences, not in getting too involved?
Were the two disciples just really scary looking? Were the bystanders that milquetoast?
Or was it planned? Maybe it was all set up ahead of time: the by-standing operatives, having procured the donkey, wait for the disciples and then give the password “Jesus,” and the two disciples give the countersign. Maybe it’s a story about how effective action requires effective organizations, careful planning, and many many people beside the one who seems to be responsible. Maybe it’s a story about how, for every named player in a movement, there are scores of nameless ones, performing small essential tasks faithfully.
Give me the discipline to be part not just of your revolution, but of your organization too, because I know somebody has to be willing to watch the donkey till you’re ready to ride it. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.