It seems to me, if someone is going to make an impression that they were the future order, judge, and king, they might want to ride into town on something other than a donkey. At least a Mustang (horse power) or a chariot limousine or fly in on a massive eagle. Now that would get some attention and much more convincing as to the capabilities and probabilities that you could pull off a Coup d’état (especially the giant eagle thing). I know, I have read too many comic books and seen to many superhero and knight-in-shining-armor movies. But really, a donkey? Hee Haw!
The fruit basket gets a little upset when I begin to study the relevance of that donkey. In the ancient Middle Eastern world, leaders rode horses if they rode to war, but a donkey was the beast of choice if they came in peace. Kings 1:33; Judges 5:10; 10:4; 12:14; and 2 Samuel 16:2 are a few examples of the rich and famous riding donkeys. And while there are various symbolic and metaphorical things that could be said about Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem, there is none more profound than Him making the self-declaration that He was king.
There were none more thrilled about this than Jesus’ disciples. Most assuredly, if Jesus was going to become king, then several things were about to happen. One, they would soon be riding donkeys as part of His royal court. Two, there would be regular miracle basket lunches. No meals on wheels here. Just show up and there is plenty for everyone. Three, no one ever gets sick, people are living forever, and if by accident someone dies because Jesus was a little late, well, they could join the Lazarus Club.
What about all those people laying their blazers on the ground or waiving the palm branches in glorious ecstasy? No doubt they were ready for a new king. They had been to the all-you-can-eat fried fish dinners, been healed from sickness and disease, and had been liberated from the burdensome liturgy and caustic religiosity of the local scroll thumpers. What’s not to like about a king like this?
But Jesus had something else on His mind. Heavy as it was, ripping at His very mind, will and emotions, He was focused on dying. The kingdom He had in mind was not the likeness of which anyone had ever seen before. It was upside down in a right-side-up kind of way. He rode in on a donkey to carry out the proclamation made at His birth and even many years before. Peace and goodwill to people everywhere. While it made no sense to those around Him and makes no sense for us today, His way of replacing a kingdom of tyranny is not with like kind. Not with more evil fighting evil as is depicted in the hero flicks of today. But with His own death. Not justice with someone else’s death but mercy with His own death.
Fine. I get the whole gospel message thing about Jesus dying a cruel death, being resurrected overcoming death and sin, and then sending His Spirit to comfort those of us who are still mixed up in this chaotic world. And while your thinking that is a little flippant and maybe a bit sacrilegious, I have to come in with a bit of a curve ball. Jesus ask us to pray and participate in His kingdom on earth. Have we not been guilty of telling Jesus what kind of kingdom we want Him to be king of on earth? How are we any different from those who wanted the buffet, the brutal retaliation of their social and cultural enemies that is justice without mercy, and the demand of protection and provision when things get a little rough? I dare say our entitlements have become beyond our understanding and realization. It is quite humbling to think how many times I have repeated these paraphrased words of the Psalmist. How long will you wait, Lord King, before you bring justice to my discomfort? The way those people talk about me? The inability to keep up my payment on unlimited phone service and satellite TV? The constant breaking down of my boat or RV? The promotion that continually passes me by (even though some do not have a job)? Not being able to go out to eat daily where someone can cook for me and serve me my order (interesting word describing a demand)? Such agony, Lord. When will you come to rescue me?
Gratitude can rescue us. The choice to be thankful for the incredible bounty provided to us whether it be family, friends, the beauty of nature, and most of all, the reason that the King died for us – eternal peace. A King that is coming back again to welcome us to a place where order, justice, and peace are served up by Grace and Mercy. Even in the midst of suffering, we can focus on the King that comes riding on a donkey. Who for the cross set before Him, did not try to reach out and grasp what He was “entitled to” but gave Himself up so that we could find merciful justice for all the ways we have ignored Him and violated the price He paid for us. A price Jesus paid to relieve us from the destroyer who had every right to take us for himself. What will our response be this week as we contemplate the week Jesus had leading up to Resurrection Day?
Ride that donkey, Jesus! Ride!