Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What the donkey did that day

Palm Sunday thinkings after the Palm Sunday service.

The setting
Before the Jewish passover feast. Now known as Palm Sunday. A few men, a discussion, a donkey selected, a ride into Jerusalem, and an outpouring of celebration. Most importantly the declaration of Majesty and Kingship.

So I solved a mystery this Lent. A few mysteries really.

I learnt that Jesus chose the donkey for His entry into Jerusalem not just in fulfilemnt of prophecy (in Zechariah your king comes to you...gentle and riding on a donkey). It was also in a long line of tradition of old testament practice: Judges and Kings rode a donkey (instead of a majestic horse, camel or limousine...or whatever regal ride they had) when they went on a mission or visit of peace! Jesus was clearly making a statement, and one that the crowd immediately recognised.

The crowds recognised His stature and hailed Him as King of Israel, Son of David, He who comes in the name of the Lord, while hailing the era as the coming kingdom of our father David. I always wondered why and how the crowds were so astute in hailing Him that way, when He had all along tried to keep His head down, and been recognised or seen as Teacher, Rabbi, Master, Lord. Never as King! But the donkey not only echoed prophecy, it echoed the practice that the crowd recognised...a king, with his subjects, *entering* a city on a donkey. This was a King who was bringing them Peace.

It could also have been the deciding factor which catupulted Judas into betrayal. Judas would have recognised the gesture too - this was a King who was bringing peace and truce, not a Messiah intent on deliverance. Perhaps the gesture of feet washing that followed was only further evidence to Judas that Jesus was not going to be the "king triumphant" he longed to see arise against the Romans.

Perhaps it also explains why, when Jesus was arrested and tried, the crowd turned against him because they probably saw Him as a false king who had somehow made them believe something that was not true. Instead of bringing peace with the Romans - as His entry into Jerusalem suggested - Jesus had not even negotiated or attempted to establish this truce or peace. Instead, the crowd probably felt that He had failed in the mission of peace (that they had so correctly recognised when He rode into Jerusalem) when He got arrested. Which was why they asked for Barabbas instead.

Palm Sunday...what a day!