Eugene Cho

our jesus riding to his own “inauguration” on an ass

jesus riding on a donkey

The image of Palm Sunday is one of the greatest ironies.  Jesus Christ – the Lord of Lords, King of Kings, the Morning Star, the Savior of all Humanity, and we can list descriptives after descriptives – rides into a procession of “Hosanna, Hosanna…Hosanna in the Highest” – on a donkey – aka – an ass.

Jesus rides in on an ass at his own Inauguration.  Goodness gracious.

My friend, Shane Claiborne, shares that a modern equivalent of such an incredulous image is of the most powerful person in our modern world, the United States President, riding into a procession…on a unicycle.

I’ll be honest: I would have asked for a chariot or at least an Aston Martin.  But that’s just me.

But Jesus does this for a reason.  In fact, everything he does has a reason.  His whole life is a model of the Kingdom of God.  But if that is so, why are we as Christians so enamored with power?  Why are we – even as Christians – still so enamored, fighting, and jostling with who gets to the sit by Jesus at the table?

How do we continue our call to be Light and Salt; to love mercy, seek justice; to preach and live out the Gospel – all while modeling the very nature of Christ?

I enjoyed the reflections of another friend, Christine Sine (from Seattle) who as part of her Are You Ready for Easter reflections on Palm Sunday, shared the following thoughts:

Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem was obviously headed for a collision with the powerful Roman empire –  collision that would cost his life and change history forever.

The question for all of us as we approach this Palm Sunday is where is our allegiance.  The question for us on this morning is where do we find ourselves in these pictures?  Are we part of that ragamuffin discipleship band following Jesus fully aware that we are on a collision course with the values of our secular culture? Are we some of the misguided enthusiasts, cheering our own idea of a  messiah, that looks more like the Roman emperor than the humble Jesus?   Are we enamoured of an idea that has little to do with what Jesus has come to teach? Do we only want to follow a Jesus when we think he promises health and happiness here and now.  Have we so misunderstood him and his purpose and that we are ready to turn against him when he turns out not to be who we thought he was?

Perhaps however, we’re not part of Jesus’ procession at all.  Perhaps we’re standing at the other gate, cheering for the symbols of empire.  Dazzled by power, attracted to wealth, wanting to identify with the victors, not the vanquished, hoping to be counted as one of the elites of our time.

Actually most of us are probably part of both processions – wanting to follow this Jesus whom we find so don’t fully understand but also caught up in the excitement of Easter egg hunts and spring fashion displays

And the beauty is that Jesus, in his humanity, sees and knows all of us. . . the flawed humanity that surrounds him. . . the flawed humanity of each of us. . . and he sees it and he forgives it, and loves us, and gives his blessing to all of us as he clops along the dusty road toward his confrontation with power, his time of trial, his abandonment, his death.

Filed under: christianity, church, ,

9 Responses

  1. Peter Armstrong says:

    this post gives me a little more peace about the sermon i preached yesterday (i.e. the above is what i preached yesterday). the themes were met with mixed reviews. probably to be expected.

    Barbaro or “Donkey” from Shrek? Rome or Ragamuffin? Those are the central questions in Matthew’s Palm Sunday text.

  2. mike says:

    “Why are we as Christians so enamored with power?”

    I am on the same page with Richard Rohr when he teaches that Jesus is an icon of vulnerability. I think an important reason why Christians are so enamored with power is because Jesus is still held up essentially as an icon of power to most Christians. I know we are trying to redefine what power is when we call Jesus Lord, Most High, Savior, King, etc., when we build all kinds of fancy, rather powerful buildings in his honor, when we Catholics have the Pope ride around in a bullet-proof Mercedes, etc, etc. It gets to a point though where it is no longer redefining what and where power is and instead merely electing Jesus to be the recipient of the same power as before.

  3. Mario says:

    Pray for me that I become more like Christ.

  4. We do not need to define anything…EVERYTHING is defined in relation to the the person of Jesus Christ, even the workings of the universe. If we wish to know ANYTHING in any capacity, we find it only through him.

    And the first step is this, revealed to us from the mouth of the Glorious One himself:

    “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

  5. fergie says:

    The Honor was to the Ass… the Ass, misunderstood as surely as our Lord was to his Own People… even today. The Ass, a better protector of the young sheep than a sheepdog. The Ass, surefooted and steady on treacherous rock.

    NO tripping up on the way to the cross.

    So much beauty in that one little part of our Lord’s Passion…

  6. Bethany says:

    Sooo… Jesus was a democrat, or what? Am I just bringing this whole discussion down?

  7. […] Cho wrote a blog post back in 2009 about the irony of Palm Sunday: The image of Palm Sunday is one of the greatest […]

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Old Jerusalem. So many stories. So much history. The synagogue in Capernaum (Galilee) where Jesus began his public ministry. He taught with authority... Pray for your pastors and teachers...that they may teach with courage, conviction, humility, and ultimately, directing people to Christ - the Word made flesh.

Speaking of, so excited to be teaching at @Quest Church tomorrow. If you're in the Seattle area, join us. A glimpse of Jordan River where John baptized Jesus. "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." What amazes me most about this event is about...timing and patience. For Christ, it wasn't about "if" but about "when." In a world of supersonic pace,  impatience, quick results, hurry and now and NOW...Jesus waited for the Father's timing. He was patient and faithful. I need to learn that waiting on the Lord in itself isn't apathy but rather an act of faith. The town of Bethlehem and at the site of the cave (aka manger) of the birth of Christ.

One of the highlights was a class of Palestinian Muslims and Christian kids in a local public school singing a Christmas carol for us in Bethlehem...just across the Shepherd's Field. Galilee. Surreal to be at the mountainside where Jesus delivered "The Sermon on the Mount" ... aka The Beatitudes. Walking around praying for Paris, Beirut, Istanbul, Nigeria, Mali, Palestine/Israel... This verse is so particularly important in light of all the violence in the world. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." - Matthew 5:9 I've been in the Holy Land this entire week and now headed back home. For security reasons, I couldn't share my travel plans. In addition to soaking in some of the stories of the Bible and literally walking in the steps of Jesus, I've been meeting, hearing, and learning from local Jews, Christians, and Muslims - particularly around the topic of peacemaking. Frankly, it's been one of the most intense and challenging experiences. My heart both aches and hopes. Just processing the recent events of Paris and Beirut with locals have been fascinating. I don't think I'll ever read the Bible or view the Middle East and Muslims the same way.

Continuing to pray for peace here and everywhere.

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