The crowds gathered anxiously, breathlessly awaiting the opportunity for a glance at the new Messiah. Palm branches at the ready… garments for the King of David to walk on as he enters on his white horse littering the cobblestone street through the Beautiful Gate. An entrance for a King. Finally, a deliverer from the Romans! Finally, justice is accomplished! The wicked will be overthrown… God is faithful to His word… He is coming… HOSANNA TO THE SON OF DAVID!
But when they saw him, some went away disappointed. Instead of a white horse… a small donkey… a symbol of peace not war. Jesus was not sitting astride a strong horse but sidesaddle on a mule. And a king….well, He sure didn’t look like one. A road-weary, dusty rabbi maybe… but not one that would strike terror in the hearts of an oppressive government or the war machine of the Roman empire.
He looked so… ordinary. So human. So unlike a conquering hero. So unlike what they really wanted. And by the end of this most un-ordinary and holy week, they would tell him what they thought.
Jesus fought misunderstanding and misinterpretation of His Father’s mission fervently, even among those closest to Him. His entrance to the Holy City that Sunday we know as Palm Sunday was carefully orchestrated not to give the wrong impression… to the people or to Rome. It no doubt made him slightly uncomfortable, if for no other reason than that He knew He was not going to live up to their messianic expectations and He knew how often the wrong expectations had been communicated.
The crowd remembered the Messianic prophecy which said, “Your King comes on the foal of a donkey…” to the shouts of Hosanna! But they forgot that the prophecy of Isaiah also said of him, “He is a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” And they never paid attention to His prophecies which predicted how this week would play out.
We too, are guilty of placing expectations on Jesus that are not true. Like the people of His day, we also want to create our savior in our own image. We want to win on our terms, not lose. We want a savior on a conquering steed, not one riding a baby donkey. We want our savior swooping in on a private jet or in a chauffeur-driven limo, not one who arrives in a car with an Uber driver.
But our Savior arrives at His coronation in the same way He arrived at His birth… in utmost humility. Not seeking attention or applause.
And that is a King worth following.
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9
FOR REFLECTION: How can you best welcome Jesus into your Easter celebration this year?