It is that time of the year again! It is the time of the year that we celebrate the Passion of the Lord Jesus Christ. This Sunday (4/1/2012) is Palm Sunday; churches around the world will celebrate by sharing the gospels’ message of Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. We will sing, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” It is the most important season in the Christian calendar; it is the time of year that we celebrate our Savior’s death, burial and resurrection from the dead. We are celebrating the gift of salvation and redemption that God has given us.
For this year’s Palm Sunday message let’s read the account from the Gospel according to John:
The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,
“Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hail to the King of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said: “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt.”
His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him. (John 12:12-16 NLT)
The prophecy spoken of in this verse was given by the prophet Zechariah approximately 500 years before the events of John 12.
Be full of joy, O people of Zion! Call out in a loud voice, O people of Jerusalem! See, your King is coming to you. He is fair and good and has the power to save. He is not proud and sits on a donkey, on the son of a female donkey. (Zechariah 9:9 NLV)
Let’s make a few observations from these two passages of scripture:
- The prophesied King of Israel (i.e., the Messiah or Christ) would come to the people of Jerusalem riding upon a donkey.
- The prophesied King would be fair, good and have the power to save.
- The people of Jerusalem would rejoice and celebrate His arrival.
Jesus is the King of the Kingdom; the Kingdom of God. So…what’s the deal with the donkey?
I am going to assume that most of the people reading this do not use an animal such as a horse, camel, donkey or mule as their primary method of transportation. Most of us utilize automobiles, trains, buses, bicycles and other forms of modern transportation to get from one place to another in our lives. For most of us a donkey is an animal we rarely see and probably only hear about on Palm Sunday.
The donkey was common place in the first century. It was a work animal and a very common method of transportation. However, it was not the typical method of transportation for Kings. Most Kings in the first century rode upon horses or in chariots, displaying their strength and grandeur. However, the King of all kings presented Himself to His people as a man of humility, riding upon a donkey.
The gospel message is not the message of a conquering king who has declared holy war upon the people who do not follow his teachings or worship him. The gospel message is a message of redemption through grace given to us by our Savior who is also our King.
The “Donkey Prophecy” in Zechariah 9:9 said that the king would be, “fair and good and has the power to save.” The prophecy continues “He is not proud and sits on a donkey”.
So…the donkey was an announcement of humility. The donkey was an announcement of peace. The donkey was a way to show that the King was placing himself on the same level as his people. When Jesus rode upon the donkey He was declaring Himself to be the promised King, the Messiah. The riding of the donkey is only one part of the prophecy. When Jesus rode the donkey he was also declaring that He had the power to save and fulfill the prophecy. Jesus was presenting Himself as the Savior. This reminds me of Philippians, chapter 2:
Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. That is why God has now lifted him so high, and has given him the name beyond all names, so that at the name of Jesus “every knee shall bow”, whether in Heaven or earth or under the earth. And that is why, in the end, “every tongue shall confess” that Jesus Christ” is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 Phillips)
Most of the religious activities that people put themselves through are in an effort to achieve something that will either please or appease the deity they worship or in modern spirituality awaken the deity within themselves. The onus for most of these religious activities is placed upon the seeker or the follower.
Can you follow the rules? Can your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds? Can you achieve enlightenment? Can you find God? These are questions that most people struggle with because if we are honest with ourselves we have to answer, “No”.
The message of gospel is very different from these types of spiritual pursuits. The message of Jesus Christ differs greatly than the religious pursuits of many people. In most religious endeavors people are the seekers. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the message of God seeking people and providing a way for all of us to know Him. These are the words of Jesus:
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)
Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” (Luke 5:31-32 NLT)
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10 NLT)
Jesus came to save each one of us. He laid down His life, paying the price of our sins’ penalty with His own blood that you and I might receive mercy and forgiveness by placing our faith in Him. He comes to each of us as the humble King, riding upon a donkey, presenting Himself as our Savior.
As we remember the events of Palm Sunday let us see the King of heaven who stripped Himself of all of His eternal privileges to die in our place so that He could redeem us and call us His sons and daughters. Let us echo the praises of the people of Jerusalem and we welcome Him into our lives, “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”