Summary: Despised and rejected the Palm Sunday donkey learns he has a place in God’s eternal plan
Isaiah 50:4-9a Page 714
Mark 11:1-11 Page 61
When I was at school I could see neither point nor purpose in learning poetry. To me, at that stage, poetry hardly made sense. If you had something to say, why not say it. If you did not have anything to say, why fill up pages and pages of nonsense that took hours and hours of dull, dry English lessons to sort out what was being said. But to pass the English exam I had to learn a poem; to be able to analyse it, recognise metre and rhythm and talk about its meaning. So I learned one - and used that one poem year after year in every exam. That poem was “The Donkey” by G.K.Chesterton.
When Fishes flew and forests walk’d
And figs grew upon thorn
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings
The Devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things
The tatter’d outlaw of the earth
Of ancient crooked will
Starve, scourge, deride me, I am dumb
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour
One far fierce hour and sweet
There was a shout about my ears
And palms beneath my feet.
On Palm Sunday there is a lesson for us in G.K. Chesterton’s poem, for it picks up the theme of the Old Testament lesson for today. Let’s look first at the donkey and then at the lesson Jesus tried so hard to teach.
Chesterton’s poem gives us a picture as the donkey just might have seen himself. A misfit, born when all other things were out of order. Hopelessly ugly - worse than the ugly duckling. Monstrous head and sickening cry, and ears like errant wings. It is the cry of every person who has ever said "My nose is too long" "My eyes are the wrong shape" " My legs are too fat". For every person, old or young, who looks in the mirror and says “Yuk!” For every teenager that has ever looked at themselves with loathing wishing they were something else - and that is almost every person at some time or another - here is the donkey’s cry. The devil’s walking parody on all four-footed things The teenager cries "everybody sees that my ears stick out", and they feel like the donkey. The Donkey’s cry is the cry of everyone who ever felt they were unimportant, unwanted, no good; that when God was handing out beauty and gifts and abilities they were out of the room.
It is the cry too of those who have been used, abused and misused through life. Has life been unfair? Have you had to do all the work while others seemed to skip through life with fun and laughter? Have you had the sticky end of the wicket all the time? Have you carried hurts and burdens far more than you feel you should? Do others have all the money, able to do all sorts of exciting things while you scrimp and save to just get by? That is the donkey’s cry. He too has been seen as nothing but a beast of burden. Whenever he tries to resist he is beaten into submission. No one ever saw him as beautiful. Never is he chosen for the glamour tasks. When the group are chosing someone to be president no one would think he could do it. They just laugh if his name is suggested. The tattered outlaw of the earth, of ancient crooked will, Starve scourge, deride me, I am dumb.
Then the first hint of surprise. I keep my secret still. What secret could there possibly be for this little ugly animal with a huge head and flappy ears and a voice like a chain saw? What could a donkey have as a secret? Fools! For I also had my hour, One far fierce hour and sweet, There was a shout about my ears, and palms beneath my feet. What gives the donkey a sense of his own value - his own self worth? What over-rides all the mistakes of creation (in his eyes) all the derision of others and the abuses of this life? It is that the Living God, in Jesus Christ, chose, in his hour of glory; for the one time that Jesus declared his intention and purpose for all to see; when the praise and adoration of the crowd echoed around; in that one time Jesus chose a donkey. For ever after - no matter what happens to him - the donkey knows, with an unshakable certainty he knows - that he is loved by God; that he is precious in the eyes of the Father. He knows there is meaning and purpose in his creation. That secret sustains him no matter what else happens. No matter how great the disaster, how prolonged the hurt, the donkey holds up his head, for he was chosen by God.