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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One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

People often ask, "How does one stand all that rain in Seattle?" Actually, it doesn't rain that much. I like the rain. Keeps everything "evergreen" and clean. Keeps our air fresh. What's challenging is the gray weather. Give me a few more sunny days. 99 more days to be specific. 
Regardless, still love this city. Checking out Canada in case I need to move up North after the presidential election. Just saying, eh.

Downtown Toronto. Fascinating architecture. Amazed by the diversity of this city. We desperately want our children to not just be captivated by the beauty of creation...but more importantly, to the actual Creator of all that is good and beautiful.

Actually, we want and need this truth for our souls, too. What a privilege. This isn't possible without all those who give, pray, and support the work of @onedayswages. This week, I signed and mailed grants to three partner organizations totaling over $170,000. These grants will empower people by supporting maternal health care, refugee relief efforts, access to clean water, provide education, etc.

Sometimes, the brokenness of the world feel so overwhelming but let's keep running the race with endurance. Let's keep pursuing justice, mercy, and humility. Let's be faithful and may we be spurred on to keep working for God's Kingdom...on earth as it is in heaven.

Again, thank you so much for your support for @onedayswages! My wife, Minhee, and I stand on the shoulders of praying mothers. I'd like to take a moment to honor my mother-in-law. It's hard to put words together to embody her life but she is a very special, anointed person. I'm so blessed to have her as a mother in my life.

She was a devoted wife until she lost her husband to cancer, mother to three daughters, and later became a pastor. She became a follower of Christ as an adult and as such, led her her family to Christ. In her late 50s, she obeyed God's calling to go to seminary and be a leader in the church. She graduated #1 in her class and reminded us that it's never too late to follow a new dream or calling.

As she'll soon celebrate her 80th birthday, I'm especially grateful for the ways that she poured into and prayed over Minhee and her other children.  Even though she's officially retired, I'm inspired that the concept of retirement is not in her vocabulary.  She continues to serve the local church, evangelize and bear witness to Christ, and goes to the early morning prayer meeting at 5am everyday to pray for our family, our church, and for others. 
Jangmonim, we love and honor you. 어머니, 사랑합니다.

Someday, I hope that when my kids speak of Minhee and I...above all, they would say with integrity that their parents prayed for them and kept pointing them to Christ. On this Mother's Day, I want to take a few words to honor mother.

There’s a moment from a few years ago that will stick with me until the day I die. It’s regarding Sung Wha, my mother.

Minhee and I were at a point of transition, between working at an ethnic Korean church in the northern suburbs of Seattle called Lynnwood and launching Quest in urban Seattle. As I shared earlier, I was in desperate need of a job. I had a mortgage to pay. A pregnant wife. A kid at home. 
Then, praise God, after months without work, I finally landed a job.

My mom was in between jobs at this point in her life. She was in her late fifties, but she had such bad knees and degenerative hips that it was, and is, difficult for her to walk. My mom is like a human barometer—when a storm is coming and when it rains, her hips throb. Although my parents lived in San Francisco, she was visiting us in Seattle to encourage us in this difficult season.

As I prepared to go to work one early morning, I walked downstairs to put on my jacket and shoes, and forgot that my mother woke up early every morning to pray. In fact, she had been praying for months that I would find a job. “Eugene, where are you going?” she said when she saw me.

I hadn’t told my mother the news that I had just recently been hired for the janitorial gig at Barnes and Noble. I chose not to because I thought she and my father would be devastated. I didn’t want them to think that after laboring, sacrificing, and doing so much for us over all those years that their son had failed them.

But I couldn’t lie to her, so eventually I told my mom that I got a job and was going to work. “Great! What job? What are you doing?” “Um, I’m working at Barnes and Noble as their custodian,” I said finally.

Without asking another question, my mother got up from the dining table where she had been reading her Bible and praying. She slowly walked slowly toward me.

She approached me, then walked past me without saying a word, and I realized she was headed toward the closet. She opened the closet door, put on her jacket, turned around and said to me (in Korean), “Eugene, let’s go together. I will help you.” This is my mother.

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