Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Donkey was a Comma

Today is "Palm Sunday" -- the Sunday before Easter when Christians traditionally celebrate Jesus' "Triumphal entry" into Jerusalem -- the "City of Peace".

His entry is called "triumphal" because the crowds lay their cloaks and palm branches at his feet, or rather the feet of the donkey he rode. In the culture of that day this gesture was a sign that they were recognizing him as king. They were shouting "Hosanna!" which means "Save us!" and yet in this context it was more like "Hurray! You're here to save us!!!". They were also shouting about Jesus being "Son of David" (their last great military king) and "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Essentially they were saying "You da man!!!! You're the ambassador -- the personal representative -- of God himself, and you're here to take over the place and then YOU will rule over us instead of us being ruled by these oppressive Romans or all the other people groups that have kept us down! Thank you! You rock!"

But they missed something. Just. Didn't. See it.

 It's like punctuation. There's a big difference between:
"How are you my friend?"
"How are you, my friend?"
That one little comma makes a huge difference in the meaning of the phrase being communicated.

The donkey was a comma, and the people missed it. That one little crucial detail turned the whole thing around. And they Just. Didn't. See it.

Because they didn't want to. The donkey was a symbol of lowliness, humility. A triumphant king entering a city he had just conquered would have ridden the biggest strongest most impressive stallion in his stables.

Jesus rode a borrowed donkey.

Jesus wasn't conquering anything with military might or power. He was coming in peace, riding a symbol of humility. He let the people say what they were saying because it was right and true -- they just didn't see the whole picture -- didn't understand the sense of timing.

Less than a week later that same crowd would be angry -- likely feeling like the victims of some great cosmic bait & switch. The same crowds that shouted "Hosanna!" would be shouting "CRUCIFY HIM!!!" I wonder if the ones who were really gung-ho about staging a military coup (they called themselves "Zealots") went out and killed the donkey?

Today is Palm Sunday. Jesus is still riding a borrowed donkey as he enters my town of Salem, OR (a city called Peace). Will I let myself see the donkey?

I wonder how much I miss today when I look at Jesus riding into my life? What do I not see because I don't want to see it? What are my expectations on him? What do I shout when I first see him? What do I shout later this week when my expectations aren't realized, and I'm left to face the truth that he was on a donkey the whole time?


  1. Nope, it's not over. The soldier taking aim could very well be one of the Israelis that carry out the illegal occupation of the Holy Land. This occupation, for one thing, prevents resident Palestinian Christians from traveling to the Holy Sites (for example from Bethlehem to Jerusalem). You can read one blogger's account at "What Palm Sunday Really Looks Like – Even the Donkey Got Arrested"

  2. Hi Maggie,

    Thanks for your reading and taking the time to comment. While I appreciate your thoughts on modern-day struggles in the middle east, I'm not sure what your comment has to do with the actual content of my post. Can you help me understand by elaborating?