The Passion story told on Palm Sunday is one of my favorites. The plot is something we have all seen in movies and read in Bible stories. The significance of Jesus entrance into Jerusalem, his last supper with his disciples, the betrayal of one of his followers and his ultimate death on the cross on Palm Sunday marks the start of the most significant doctrine of the Christian faith. However, the people in the Passion story that are most fascinating to me are the ones with no names or faces. Who these people are is insignificant, but what they do is integral to the plot.
Definition: bit player (noun) bit pley er 1. An actor who performs a minor role in a movie, play, etc.: an actor who is not a star 2. Someone or something that plays a secondary or minor role in some process or activity.
Twice in the passion story Jesus makes a request of his disciples that involve a bit player. He tells them to go into the city and untie the first donkey the disciples see. If someone asks them about their intentions with the animal they are to say “The master has need of it.”. Of course, someone does ask – it’s a bit player. Most likely this is someone responsible for the donkey; precious property that looks as if it is being stolen. Contrary to common sense, this bit player is perfectly fine with the very vague “the master has need of it.” response.
The second occurrence is when the disciples ask Jesus where they should celebrate the Passover meal. Again, the disciples are not given specific instructions but told to follow a man carrying a jug of water then ask the master of the house “The teacher asks where is the guest room that he may celebrate the Passover?”. Indeed there is a room prepared at this home. This master has the room not just available but completely prepared.
Who are these two people? Is anyone else blown away by the obvious fact that there has been some significant divine communication prior to the disciple’s encounter with them? The master of the house is the one that amazes me the most. Preparation for Passover is no small feat. There’s a great deal involved in not just the meal itself. The entire kitchen is cleaned in a very specific way, the table is set differently than any other meal and certain items attained for this celebration had to be in high demand. Preparing for Passover is arduous. It’s obvious the master is actively preparing if he sent a servant out to fetch water for guests that hadn’t even entered his home yet. It makes me wonder; did he know the servant would find these disciples? Did he doubt that his prepared room would be used?Did his servants and family think he was crazy? What type of master is this that makes up a room based on the faith of someone not yet seen?
In my mind, I think the fact that these two individuals are nameless and faceless is not a coincidence. The keeper of the donkey and the master of the house must have had their hearts opened in a way that allowed them to respond to God without question. They are regular people doing everyday things but this time it has an extraordinary outcome. It could have been that every Passover the master of the house set a hopeful table. Maybe the donkey’s keeper had a supernatural knowledge about the necessity of his steed. We don’t know. We just know they were doing what they needed to and followed God’s call.
The bit players are essential to the Passion. They represent the faithful; you and I. We are an integral part to this amazing love story. Without the blind faith of bit players, the ride into Jerusalem and the Last Supper doesn’t happen. Bit players believe and take a risk that God will come and do what needs to be done. Aren’t we being called to do the same right now? Could it be that our everyday actions, our common daily tasks, our bit parts in the story of life right now are being used for something beyond our comprehension?
I think so.