THE BLOG
01/21/2012 08:26 am ET Updated Mar 22, 2012

Mission Impossible: Mark 11:1-11

Impossible missions cannot be accomplished alone: God needs us, and we need God.

Ever broken an arm or a hand, a leg or a finger? Then you know how hard it suddenly becomes to do even the simplest tasks.

Ever try to tie your shoe with one hand? Or open a jar with one hand? Or fold a shirt with one hand? Things we are used to performing with utter ease using two hands become agonizingly slow and take all our concentration when only one is available. Even then, the results are sloppy and embarrassing. Some tasks take two -- two hands, two people, two wills, two hearts. One simply isn't enough to get the job done.

In Mark's gospel, Jesus sends his disciples after the young colt that he will ride into Jerusalem, he sends out a team to get the job done. Just as when Jesus had sent his disciples out to preach and heal and exorcise demons (he sent them "two by two"), Jesus continues to keep his disciples operating as teams.

Do you think the two disciples chosen for this latest duty looked forward to this "mission" with the same sort of anticipation that they had enjoyed when venturing into Galilee? Not on your life! Instead of miraculous healings and exorcisms, they have now been appointed "horse thieves for Jesus." A young colt was a valuable commodity in those days. As a pack animal, it even offered the means of a livelihood as a mode of transportation offered a certain amount of status and afforded some income. Sashaying into the big city and simply helping themselves to some stranger's property hardly sounded like a mission for the sake of the Messiah.

But Jesus makes this impossible-sounding mission possible by anticipating every question, every quibble, and every quandary these disciples might face. First, they are sent as a team of two so that they might lend one another strength and companionship along the way. As team members, they could take turns feeling confident or scared, leading or following, doubting or believing. As two, they also presented a more plausible picture to those who would question them about taking the colt. One man skulking up to untie an animal that was not his own was surely a thief. But two men, engaged in conversation while confidently untying the colt, looked like a mission.

When the "bystanders" asked the two disciples exactly what they were doing, as Jesus had foretold they would, the disciples are not only prepared with the answer Jesus gave them; they can corroborate each other's story. A strange story sounds less odd when two witnesses testify to its truth.

I recently saw the 4th installment of the Mission Impossible movie series, Ethan Hunt and his teams are racing against time to track down a dangerous terrorist named Hendricks, who has gained access to Russian nuclear launch codes and is planning a strike on the United States. An attempt by the team to stop him at the Kremlin ends in a disaster, with an explosion causing severe destruction to the Kremlin and the IMF being implicated in the bombing, forcing the President to invoke Ghost Protocol, under which the IMF is disavowed, and will be offered no help or backup in any form. Undaunted, Ethan and his team chase Hendricks to Dubai and from there to Mumbai, but several spectacular action sequences later, they might still be too late to stop a disaster.

Like Ethan Hunt and his team, Jesus has called all people who reside in the global marketplace to join his "impossible mission force" -- and be prepared to be offered some pretty crazy-sounding assignments. Your mission and mine -- "should you choose to accept it" -- will lead us into some strange situations. We may not find ourselves being "horse thieves for Jesus," but chances are we will find ourselves doing things and saying things we would never have dreamed possible. Being on Christ's "impossible mission force" may involve "glamour duty" -- teaching, preaching and healing. Or it may involve "garbage duty" -- perhaps as a Minister of Recycling or Minister of Maintenance. Sometimes accomplishing an impossible mission will take comedy -- like the sight of a grown man riding a young colt in a ragtag procession. Sometimes an impossible mission is accomplished only through tragedy -- like a death on the cross. What is really astounding is that God has purposefully chosen the struggling, sinful, stiff-necked church to be the "impossible mission force" for proclaiming the gospel to the world.