Summary: The donkey's perspective on the triumphant entry...
As a church we’ve been journeying through the 40 days of Lent… building up to the horror of the cross and the joy of the resurrection. This Sunday marks an important turning point in that journey as it is Palm Sunday – which is the start of Jesus final week in Jerusalem – the last five days before his crucifixion.
Our reading which comes from Matthew 21 (it’s on page … in your Bibles) is the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem. He has worked among many of the people who are gathering there for the great feast of the Passover – healing their sick, blessing their children and teaching great truths of the kingdom in their midst. Commentators reckon there would have been well in excess of 100 000 people entering Jerusalem on that day, and while there is a great sense of joy as he rides into the city there are a few important things to bear in mind. The crowds, hailing Jesus as King, and crying out Hosanna!! Don’t really get it. Hosanna means “Please save us now!” And these people were not talking about salvation in the same terms we do today. Rather they were expecting Jesus to lead a rebellion against the oppressive Roman government… And as they came to realise that he came in peace – in humility - in reconciliation … their cries turned from “Hosanna” to “Crucify him” in the short space of 5 days.
At the same time that the procession is occurring – the Jewish leaders are plotting to have Jesus killed. And Jesus knows it. I sometimes feel like reading this passage is a little like reading the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, where you know from the start that it is a tragedy… Jesus knew that this was his final ride on a donkey.
So let’s read: Matthew 21:1-11
“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the Prophet,
‘Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’
The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowd that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
May God bless the reading of his Holy Word – now and forever. Let us pray, “Father may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to you – our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.”
Christian author Philip Yancey, in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, described Palm Sunday this way: “The triumphal entry has about it an aura of ambivalence, and as I read all the accounts together, what stands out to me now is the slapstick nature of the affair. I imagine a Roman officer galloping up to check on the disturbance. He has attended processions in Rome, where they do it right. The conquering general sits in a chariot of gold, with stallions straining at the reins and wheel spikes flashing in the sunlight. Behind him officers in polished armour display banners captured from vanquished armies. At the rear comes a ragtag procession of slaves and prisoners in chains, living proof of what happens to those who defy Rome.
“In Jesus’ triumphal entry, the adoring crowd makes up the ragtag procession: the lame, the blind, the children, the peasants from Galilee and Bethany. When the officer looks for the object of their attention he spies a forlorn figure, weeping, riding on no stallion or chariot but on the back of a baby donkey, a borrowed coat draped across its backbone serving as his saddle.”
“A forlorn figure… on the back of a baby donkey.” Have you ever considered what the donkey’s perspective on all this was? I found a story which imagines what happened to this baby donkey the following day.
The donkey awakened, his mind still savouring the afterglow of the most exciting day of his life. Never before had he felt such a rush of pleasure and pride.