The events of holy week seemed like everything was rushing toward a majestic moment when Messiah would enter the Holy City and suddenly everything would happen.
• The dead would rise. • The sick would be made well. • The nation would return to the God who had formed Israel, and transformed it from a slave people to healthy, God honoring nation. • One from the line of David would take up the throne of his father David.
. And of course, in the ministry of Jesus, the dead had already been raised. The sick had already been made well. Many had returned to God under the ministries of John the Baptist and then Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was from the line of David the king! The only thing left was for him to enter the holy city, mounted on a colt the foal of a donkey, cleanse everything ungodly from the place of worship, and then raise all the righteous dead from Hebrew history to cast out the ungodly conquerors who had worshiped the wrong gods and goddesses. If you read Luke’s gospel, there is a moment when the plot line became clear: The adoring crowds of Palm Sunday believed that Jesus was going to do it immediately—all of it. In fact, Luke 19:11 tells us that Jesus told a parable about having to wait, because the crowd thought that the kingdom was going to unfold instantly! Jesus went on to tell a parable because He was near Jerusalem,
and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately
As we reflect on the events of Holy Week—the entry on a donkey, the euphoria of the crowd, the cleansing of the temple, the woman who poured out the oil on his body to prepare him for the grave, the Garden of Gethsemane, the false arrest, the mockery of a trial, and his crucifixion, only one (maybe two) got it completely right. You can make the strong case that the woman who anointed his body with pure nard got it more than right. The only other one was the donkey—going into the holy city.
If you know anything about untamed animals that have never been broken, you will know this. Riding an animal that has never been broken requires a skilled rider who is prepared to get thrown off. Jesus rode into the city on a colt—the foal of a donkey. That means it wasn’t used to anything on its back. It had never had a robe on it, let alone a saddle. It had never had a rider. If you know animals you will know that a nervous mount won’t like noise, nor will it trust uncertain ground. Put a bunch of branches in the path of an unbroken animal, and it won’t go forward. Cover those branches with robes and cloth, the animal would refuse to move, or run away, bucking and kicking. Place an animal with a rider, and branches in its path, and join that with a screaming crowd of thousands ahead, beside and behind, all pressing in, and the odds are that the rider might get to twenty seconds on the back of that animal, if the rider knew how to manage the beast, only to be thrown off. But this donkey did none of the above. • The disciples got it wrong. • The priests got it wrong. • The crowd got it wrong. • The Roman officers who arrested and killed him got it wrong. Only the donkey, an unbroken, unskilled, untrained novice of a young animal—only the donkey, navigating everything it had never done before— carried the presence of Jesus toward His destiny. With focus, that beast carried the Presence of the Lord to His dying, so that we might live. Perhaps you feel like you are out of your league. Perhaps you are moved by the call of Christ to follow Him, but do not believe you are skilled enough or worthy enough to consider following Him. When you don’t feel qualified, remember the donkey—the unbroken, unskilled foal. As it carried Jesus to his destiny, it was able to navigate things that all of its peers could never do—and it did so with joy. May God grant that this holy season of death and resurrection be a joy to you and yours. And remember—if a donkey could get it right, odds are that God will help us do what lies before us too!