A King Like No Other
Welcome to the second of my Lent blogs. This week we look at the Sunday before Jesus died, often called Palm Sunday because the crowds waved palm branches in front of Jesus.
There are some strange stories in the Bible. Please hear me out before you accuse me of heresy, but you can’t get much stranger than a talking donkey! Now there is another donkey in the Bible, and this one carried Jesus into Jerusalem just five days before his death. And like the talking donkey, this story has always struck me as strange.
Jesus sat on his donkey, probably entered Jerusalem that day from the south. He joins the crowds, making their way through the narrow streets towards the Temple to celebrate the Passover festival. They recognise him as the man who has spent the last three years teaching and healing people throughout the land. They shout hosanna, meaning “save us”, and boy did they need saving.
This story is often called the Triumphal Entry and many artists down the centuries have tried to capture this scene. With a mixture of triumphalism and humility, they often miss the mark. Jesus is sitting atop his donkey with his feet dangling just off the ground, looking a little like Viggo Mortensen in Lord of the Rings. If this is a triumphal entry, then it’s a bit farcical.
Imagine the scene. Ecstatic crowds wave palm branches or put their own cloaks on the ground for the donkey to walk over. They are shouting for a messiah, and a king, and they recognise someone who has a chance to save them from out of their troubles. But this king is on a donkey, his feet dangling.
Now, both literally and spiritually, another procession was entering Jerusalem from the opposite direction. Passover was often a flash point for trouble, and trouble was one thing the Romans wanted to avoid. The emperor, who wanted to be worshipped like a god, was sending his man, Pontius Pilate, to take control.
Now imagine this scene. Roman soldiers on horseback flanking the Roman Governor on a white charger. Sunlight glinting off each man’s highly polished breastplate and the tips of their spears. There are no cheering crowds, no one is shouting hosanna here, just foot soldiers pushing people out of the way. These men are on a mission, and woe betide anyone who gets in their way.
By his choice of an everyday donkey, Jesus asked the people and leaders of his day whose side were they on. And he still asks us the same question today. Are we on the side of God’s kingdom or the kingdoms of this world? There’s nothing farcical about that question.
Photo by Laura Gariglio on Unsplash
Photo by Brady Leavell on Unsplash
The people continued their songs to Jesus as the King of Isreal. He couldn’t have looked more regal, even if he’d ridden a white charger instead of the humble donkey. His humility was so different from the pride of others. Jesus is a King, but a king like no other. People in the crowd were seeing what I’d seen, that he is our long-expected Messiah, come to bring in God’s kingdom.
Leaving Bethany page 67
If you enjoyed this blog check out the first in the series, Lent Stories
Next week we will look at the last meal Jesus ate with his closest friends.
Susan Sutherland is the author of three books. To buy Leaving Bethany and the sequel Return to Caesarea please go to the buy page.
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3 thoughts on “Lent Pilgrimage Week 2”
Oh to have been there and lain down my coat for Him!