I’m very fond of this season in the Christian calendar because I can mention the word “ass” during my blog post and sermon and still keep all the fundamentalists off my back. 😉
But seriously, the message of Palm Sunday is very significant. True, this fulfills the prophecy of the Old Testament and that’s very significant but there’s more:
The image of Jesus riding on a donkey – aka “an ass” – during Palm Sunday is a great paradox.
In some ways, it’s when things go downhill really fast for Jesus and for anyone and everyone associated with Jesus that had a different agenda about “the Kingdom” than Jesus.
In reality, there were tough and challenging things prior to Palm Sunday. For example:
- Jesus kept hanging out with the lowly, the tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick, and even the children. The religious leaders wanted him to join their posse and cohort. Even his best friends wanted Jesus to act and hang out with the more dignified. Like they say, your company says a great deal about who you are.
- Jesus went through Samaria and gasp…chatted with a Samaritan woman in broad daylight.
- Jesus kept talking about loving your neighbors and even worse, loving your enemies.
There were challenges but #TeamJesus had some serious momentum. They were kicking butt and were making a name for themselves. But on Palm Sunday, veiled underneath the glorious chants of victory, allegiance, and power, Jesus was making yet…another declaration.
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. He goes on to say that:
We’re just the asses Jesus rides on.
How true. How true.
It’s not about us. It’s not about our glory, our fame, our power, our buildings… We’re just the ass and we should be honored that God chooses to love us, save us, and that we have the joy of carrying the name and gospel of Christ to the world.
But let’s not forget, we’re not riding Jesus for our agenda. Actually, Jesus already has an agenda. And the agenda is twofold:
Salvation & Reconciliation
His agenda isn’t to just exclusively bless us. It’s really not. While he doesn’t mind blessing us…oh how he sees ‘blessing’ so differently than how we want to define blessing. His agenda isn’t to build our personal kingdoms. Jesus already has an agenda…
It’s true. Jesus’ “triumphant” entry into Jerusalem entry marks a dramatic turn downhill that actually takes him to the “lowest” place – hell itself.
The irony of it all is that Jesus’ final week is marked by
- his entry into Jerusalem on an ass
- washing the feet of his own disciples
- and the Crucifixion
and for us, his followers…( if we’re honest)
those are the things we seek to avoid
While we as Christians (and Christian leaders) can get sucked into the cultural obsession with upward mobility and power, buildings, influence, private jets, wealth, mega conferences, lights, dry ice, and whatever else…
Let’s not forget: