The Humble King
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Those who followed (Jesus) were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Palm Sunday always feels like a joyful celebration. But it raises for us three very important questions. Who is this Jesus? Do we wish to follow Jesus? Finally do we wish to be a part of his Kingdom?
The three children being baptised are being brought into the community of people who follow Jesus and are members of his Kingdom. So it is important for them and for us if we can wrestle with these three important questions.
The early followers of Jesus were often quite confused by Jesus. They were quite quick to decide that he was the Messiah, in other words the King of Israel. But he didn’t fit their image of what a messiah would be.
In that verse from Zechariah the prophet we get a sense of why they might be confused. Part of the sentence says he comes triumphant and victorious and then it says humble and riding on a donkey. Jesus fitted the second half of the sentence. He was never triumphant and victorious.
When great armies led by an illustrious general or king are triumphant and victorious we write songs and poetry about them, we make paintings, we build arches at the entrance to the city to celebrate their victory.
(The charge of the light horse – Beersheba)
But Jesus was never a soldier and he never had the authority to send an army to war. Quite the opposite! Jesus starts out life being born in a cave where they keep the animals.
Then at least in Matthew’s Gospel we are told that they have to flee from King Herod and his army of butchers who would even kill children.
Later Jesus begins draws crowds around him, but mostly they are the poor and powerless and those who have been excluded from mainstream society.
This king who comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey makes a contrast between himself and the Roman Governor who may well have been riding in via the road from the coast at almost the same time. But may be the Romans just thought they were foolish larrikins, old enough to know better. The Romans probably didn’t see Jesus as a threat.
So what was going on in the minds of the crowd who gathered and cheered? Were they still holding onto a hope that Jesus would start a revolution and send the Romans running?
Is the Jesus that we would like to follow the sort of God who will ride into town and chase all our problems away? Most of us probably would like to have a warm friendly God who fixes our world up, fixes us up, and makes life easy. Jesus doesn’t fit the crowd’s notion of a warrior King who would rid them of the oppressive Roman army. Neither does he fit the kind but magical God who comes and makes our world good and easy.
Instead of coming as a warrior King Jesus comes unarmed and calling on people to love their neighbours and even their enemies. But neither does Jesus come with some kind of magic wand to make all our problems go away. No, Jesus walks headlong into the world’s biggest problem, humanity’s capacity to put people to death. His message of love and forgiveness, and of reckless generosity is anything but a magic wand. To be able to follow Jesus as we begin to know him requires us to re-orientate our whole life. We have to choose forgiveness rather than violence, to choose love rather than anger and hatred, to choose generosity rather than selfishness. In making these choices and caring about other people first then we begin to see our lives transformed.
And slowly, ever so slowly we begin to see the world transformed by love and generosity. Our relationships with other people becomes more important than just looking after number one.
So who is Jesus? Jesus is not a warrior King, nor a wand waving miracle worker coming to fix our miserable world. No, as Christians we have come to recognise in Jesus a God who is present in the very messy world we live in, a God who draws us into a whole new orientation for our lives.
Do we want to follow this Jesus, crying “hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”? Do we want to be a part of a “kingdom” where love and generosity, humility and graciousness are the hallmarks of the Kingdom? A part of us says, yes of course we do. It sounds great. Another part of us knows intuitively that if we follow Jesus there will be a cost.
If we truly follow Jesus, people in our community may even laugh at us, wasting time on Sunday morning at Church when we could be sitting on the esplanade sipping a cappuccino. But much more than that our society tells us that power and wealth and strength and doing whatever you like are the things that really matter. Yes following Jesus comes with a cost. We have to let go of our pride. We need to let go of the desire to be seen a great in our world.
But when we really enter into this life of the Kingdom of God, following Jesus we discover joy. We discover an abundance in life and an amazing freedom that we could never have fully imagined. The breadth and depth of this new life has an eternal dimension that we were never able to grasp. This discovery of joy and freedom doesn’t transform our lives overnight, well not very often anyway. Mostly it is more like a seedling planted in our hearts. It takes time to grow into maturity. Our transformation takes time too.
So today I invite you to take up those little green crosses and take them to heart. Re-orientate your life based on the life that Jesus offers. Discover in the humble king on a donkey the God of grace who desires to make each one of us a new creation.
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