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Summary: When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never bee

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I’m sure we all know the joke about how many social workers it takes to change a light bulb. It only takes one, of course, but the light bulb has got to want to change.

I think it was social workers that were the target of that joke, but it could equally well have been psychotherapists, community workers, youth workers, welfare professionals or almost anyone else in the ‘helping professions’ where we have this dogma that you can’t really change anybody unless they want to change. Personally, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that this supposedly self-evident truth is rubbish.

I’m not sure anybody spontaneously comes up with the idea that they want to change. I don’t want to change. Do you? We generally don’t have any desire to change … unless we’re pushed.

Most guys who come to me wanting to get over their drug problem - it’s not because they were high one day and thought ‘this isn’t for me’. It’s generally because they are facing serious criminal charges and all of a sudden the idea of rehab looks like an attractive alternative to an impending gaol term!

We rarely, I think, initiate change ourselves. Did I want to give up smoking after 15 happy years of puffing away? Not a chance. It was that doctor who told me that the effects of my tobacco addiction could be seen on the X-rays of my lungs, and who warned me that I was soon going to be clutching at fence-posts just to make it to the end of the street - that’s what got me interested in change! (nb. it turned out that he’d lied to me about the X-rays but it worked!)

And I’ve known quite a number of men who have decided to give away their addictions. What prompted them? Was it a spontaneous realisation that their health would be better served by being clean? No. It was generally because their wives threatened to leave them or because their job was at stake or because they were facing bankruptcy because of their gambling.

Someone or something intervened in their lives that more or less forced them to change (or at least to consider change). And I think this approach that, ‘Oh well, we mustn’t try to intrude as there’s no point pushing them unless they want to change’ is often just an excuse for not doing anything.

Our approach here is to intervene. With the kids at the Youth Centre who get caught up in drugs or violence or other criminal activities, my approach is to intervene wherever possible - to create avenues for change for our young people, and to push them as hard as bloody possible to take them. Our approach to ministry here is interventionist, and I believe that this approach is indeed the natural outworking of our faith in a God who intervenes in history.

The God of the Bible is not one who sits back and watches the world roll on towards self-destruction until it’s people decides that they want to change. Rather, the God of the Bible is one who takes specific action in history, intervening into human affairs in order to set things right. And nowhere I think do we see this more clearly than on Palm Sunday.

These first eleven verses of Mark chapter 11 recount Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem on that fateful Sunday we remember as Palm Sunday. Did you notice in that reading, that of those eleven verses, the first seven of them were just detailing the various steps that Jesus and his disciples went through in order to prepare for the event!

The disciples had to go into a specific village where an arrangement had been made to pick up a very special type of colt. There was a code-word associated with the pick-up of the animal that the owners were already aware of, and all this detail is given. The Gospel writer is making a point by giving us all this detail and it is this: that Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem did not happen by coincidence. It didn’t just all occur spontaneously.

Jesus wasn’t just strolling down the road and said, ‘I’m feeling tired’ and so one of the disciples said, ‘hey, why don’t you sit on this stray donkey’. And since it was a hot day a lot of them took their cloaks off and all of a sudden this massive crowd of people suddenly materialised. No! It was all very deliberate. It had all been well-planned. Jesus and His disciples knew what they were doing. And what they were doing was deliberately provoking the authorities and trying to start a fight!

Jesus knew how His actions would be interpreted. He knew the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: “Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” It was no coincidence that Jesus was fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy. On the contrary, Jesus had planned it all very deliberately, to make clear that He was fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy. He rides into Jerusalem as the King of the Jews, and the disciples know what to do and the crowds know what to do. They proclaim Him as their king!

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