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Of Donkeys And Horses…

March 26, 2015

DFS Donkeys

Almost four years ago, I signed the papers and became a homeowner for the first time in my life. I was still on Active duty with the Air Force, but was on final or terminal leave prior to retiring. When Denise and I found this house, we also found out that we would have unusual neighbors who brayed! Over the past four years, we have watched the donkeys wander through the pasture and by the fence separating our property from theirs. At times, the donkeys will come to the fence for some attention. Unlike the horse neighbors I had in England (picture of Smiling Mama below), who were always eager to have carrots or apples along with some attention, the donkeys never really want food from us. I have tried to offer them carrots or apple slices, but they just don’t seem interested. That is a far cry from Smiling Mama who would scarf down anything you put near her mouth!

Mama Horse

Over the course of the three years that I lived in Beck Row, Suffolk, England I got to watch the horses roam around the field behind us. New colts were born, new neighbors would come and some would go. Each one had its own distinct personality and temperament. They were fun to watch as they interacted with each other, with their owners, and with all of the neighbors whose fences backed up to the field where the horses were. It is the same with the donkeys next door for us today.

Okay, Padre, enough about the horses and donkeys already! What does this have to do with Palm Sunday or the Gospel reading? Enough horsing around, get to the point!

Well, actually, the horse and donkey stories do tie into the reading for this Sunday. There is a subtle difference between horses and donkeys. One animal is the choice of a conquering warrior and the other is a simple beast of burden. In the Gospel reading, Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Anointed, rode into Jerusalem at the beginning of the eight day Passover celebration. As the Son of God, the Messiah, he could have easily ridden into Jerusalem on a horse by simply flashing his credentials. Many hoped that the Messiah would conquer the political powers that be and establish the kingdom once again. But that wasn’t how Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem. He told his disciples to go into the nearby village and find a colt that had never been ridden and bring it to him. Then he rode the humble beast of burden into Jerusalem.

In Zechariah 9:9-10a, we read the following Oracle or Prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter, Jerusalem! 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. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations…”. Jesus, the King of King and Lord of Lords would triumph over sin and death. Yet he was also the humble servant of all as he would point out on the night he was betrayed when he washed his disciples feet.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, he rode in peace. A conqueror would ride in on a horse to show his might and authority. Jesus, the Servant King, rode in on a humble donkey. Jesus was a conqueror, but his conquering had nothing to do with war and everything to do with peace. He rode into Jerusalem to overturn the religious establishment and return the people to a right relationship with God. The people threw their coats on the ground along with palm branches as Jesus passed by. This was a parade fit for a king, complete with loud Hosanna’s and shouts of joy. Sadly though, the people were missing the point of his entry. Soon, however, their voices would switch from crying out “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him”!

This Palm Sunday, I encourage each of you to reflect on the humble entry into Jerusalem of Jesus. This Jesus who was laid in a manger at his birth. This Jesus who was a humble carpenter and then a homeless wandering preacher/teacher. This Jesus who entered the world humbly, entered Jerusalem the same way. It wasn’t about the parade at all… it was about following God’s plan for his life.

The people were so busy making a HUGE celebration that they missed the point. Jesus rode into Jerusalem humbly… to die. For us today, my prayer is that we don’t get so caught up in the parade and party atmosphere of Palm Sunday that we fail to remember what it really is all about. May the Lord ride humbly into our hearts with God’s peace, God’s love, God’s shalom. And may we humbly share that same love and peace with those whom we meet.

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