What kind of king rides a donkey?
Sermon for Palm Sunday by Pastor Joel Pukallus.
There is a scene in the movie “The Passion of the Christ” that I find absolutely hilarious, where in the midst of Jesus suffering and pain, as he was led out to Calvary to be crucified, some of the Romans ride out to the hill to watch. They had a noble, proud bearing, sitting in all of their armour and regimental finery on beautiful horses. There was no doubt but that they were in command.
The funny part was that behind them the High Priest and the SanHedrin rode up the hill, bouncing along and trying to look important and dignified on these little donkeys. The Jewish men’s feet almost touched the ground on either side of the donkeys, and their robes flapped behind them. Compared to the Romans they looked ridiculous. And that was the whole point.
Why didn’t they ride horses? Good question.
Why doesn’t an Iraqi insurgent drive a tank into the middle of U.S. occupied Baghdad?
A horse was a military weapon, and to come into the city on a horse said something, especially if you claimed, as Jesus did, to be a King. If you rode a horse, you were a military King, you were saying that you had command of an army, and you had come to fight.
Why didn’t Jesus ride a horse into Jerusalem?? Because it would have been a declaration of war.
But his kingship was of another kind. And that was a realisation that was to dawn on his followers and make them very upset indeed. There was nothing that they wanted to see more than the Romans all headed back across the Mediterranean sea to Italy.
But Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was not a declaration of war. It was a declaration of peace. His was a kingship in the model of his ancestors David and Solomon, who had ridden to their coronations on Donkeys, and shown that they were not proud and haughty kings, who fell into the trap of thinking that they were gods, like the Egyptian Pharaohs and Roman Emperors. They knew themselves to be second-in-command in a kingdom that was based in heaven, with God as king.
Jesus showed that his kingdom, as he was later to explain to Pilate, was not of this world.
The people did not understand this. They wanted to see a great earthly military ruler. And when it did dawn on them, it only took them a week to turn on him.
Don’t people’s hearts change so fast? Watch a football team on the edge of the top eight and you will know what I mean. When they lose one, their own fans turn on them and say how they were pretenders who never had a chance, and as soon as they win one, you can never find anyone who will admit to have written them off. That is, until they lose the next one…and all of a sudden, the coaches job doesn’t look all that safe.
How fickle were these people in Jerusalem? One week: “Hosanna” and the next week: “Hang him”.
One week :Saviour, and the next: “String him up”. One week “Christ” and the next week: “crucify him!”
Do you get the picture?
The people wanted a King like David who ruled over Israel at the height of it’s military power, but their expectations were wrong. When things didn’t work out, most would have thought that they aimed too high, expecting Jesus to be like David. Little did they realise that they aimed too low.
Jesus isn’t a King, a saviour, that we can mould according to our needs and expectations, although many try. He came his way, God’s way, on his terms: God’s terms. He came to do a job that you and I could never do, and to teach us truths that we could never know without him, and our response is just as fickle and changing as the residents of Jerusalem.
How do we react when God doesn’t meet our expectations? When someone in his church lets us down or says something we don’t like? Do we turn on him? Some do. You have heard, I am sure, those people who say that they are never going back to certain churches as long as that person is there. Strangely, even after that person leaves, they never seem to go back.
The fickle force of our frustration and disappointment is no less great now than it was in the course of that last single week before Jesus’ death.
God won’t be boxed up and placed on a shelf, or kept in our pocket to be brought out for the purpose of proving a point or winning an argument. Jesus proved that himself when he rode into that city, and answered the Pharisees who also tried to keep him contained, that if the crowd was silenced, even the rocks and stones would cry out.
Come and see who Jesus is this Holy Week and Easter. Experience for yourself all that he has done and won for you. But leave your arrogance and your pre-conceived ideas at the cross, because when you look into the blood-shot, dying eyes of the man who is God on the cross, what you and I think or expect doesn’t really matter, does it?
So what reaction are we left with?
What can we say, what can we do, in the light of everything that Jesus is, and everything that he has done?
What bursts forth out of us as we watch this all unfold?
"Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Hosanna in the highest!"
Praise God, for he has come to die.
Praise God, for he has come to remove all of our preconceived ideas, our expectations and our doubts and fears.
Praise God, for he comes in humility, to save the world. And the world includes you and me.