Summary: In a day when Christians in America are increasingly in a crusading posture to capture more political, social, and economic power, the picture of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey and anticipating intense opposition, rejection, and death makes
Opening illustration: Every spring, hundreds of Hollywood stars gather for the Academy Awards. Very few “slip in the back door:” instead, they make an entrance. They walk down the long red carpet, smiling at the cameras and waving to the people in the stands (who, by the way, all had to apply and go through extensive background checks), showing off their clothing (and undoubtedly a bit more), chatting with the reporters. Some will go to great, great lengths just to be noticed.
Contrast that with Jesus: to the man healed of leprosy in Matt. 8, He said: “See that you don’t tell anyone.” To the two blind men He healed in Matt. 9, He, “warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.’” And in Mark 1, a demon possessed man in Capernaum yelled out “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” to which Jesus replied “Be quiet!”
Jesus often chose not to be in the limelight. In fact, most of Jesus ministry happened outside of the capital city of Jerusalem, away from the big pomp and ceremony of the Temple, in small towns and villages along the way.
Until today, until the event we know as “The (un)Triumphal Entry,” the day we remember each year as Palm Sunday. This day all of that changes. Now, we see Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem being proclaimed as Messiah and King.
Let us turn to Luke 19 and catch up with the Palm Sunday story and see who this donkey King is and was He really out there to show off or gather people’s attention. What were His qualifications?
Introduction: I’ve always puzzled over the Triumphal Entry. On the one hand, the enthusiasm of the crowds is contagious. The King is coming into the Holy City! Hosanna! On the other hand, I see Jesus filled with pain. He accedes to the celebration -- indeed, he initiates it. But he is somehow detached. Instead of lifting his hands in victory as might a politician or conquering general, he is subdued. And when Jerusalem comes into sight he begins to weep -- not for himself, but for the city and its inhabitants.
In a day when Christians in America are increasingly in a crusading posture to capture more political, social, and economic power, the picture of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey and anticipating intense opposition, rejection, and death makes us rather uneasy. We want a Messiah who comes in power, not in weakness, a Messiah who judges the wicked, and a Messiah who conquers the Romans and establishes Israel. We want a nationalist Messiah. "Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" We are too much like James and John who want to sit on the right hand and on the left hand of Jesus in his kingdom. We are too much like the disciples who argue as to who is the greatest among them, while Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem riding on a common, ordinary donkey. Zechariah 9: 9 is well known to us as a prophecy of an anointed king who would come into Jerusalem on a young donkey.
The story of Palm Sunday is not merely a rebuke of national policy that seeks power and domination. It is also a rebuke of individual ambition to dominate others on the basis of power rather than love. Pride, arrogance, self-centered ambition and self-seeking are brought out into the open and judged. In the presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who rides a donkey, all feelings of superiority, competitiveness, power struggle and strife become all too evident as manifestations of sinfulness. Jesus on a donkey calls us into accountability, if indeed we are serious about making him our model and paradigm.