I was reading up on Palm Sunday and a lot of writings say it’s Jesus’ triumphant return to Jerusalem and any sort of Easter TV show or Passion Play you see has him, cloaked in white, sitting side saddle, blue eyed, smiling, waving…It’s such a dreamy picture. Do you think it was really that dreamy?
I mean, riding a donkey for one. Let me just say, I’ve ridden horses. I know there’s a glamour there when it comes to riding horses, even rodeo riding has this poetic aspect to it. But riding a donkey? No. No. Riding a donkey? Not. Glamorous. Also, a colt of a donkey? My dad, who is 6’4″ tall would ride this mini motorbike my grandpa made and his knees were up to his ears. This is kind of how I imagine Jesus. Not Fonzie cool at all!
Second thing, triumphant return? He was coming in to Jerusalem to die. I’m no expert on emotional intelligence, but, that doesn’t sound like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to me.
But the thing is, it WAS like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (without the giant Snoopy) and the people were stoked. Palms, Hosanna, the whole nine yards. They were stoked because THEY got to see hundreds of years of promises come to fruition.
I mean, can you imagine hundreds of years of generational stories handed down to you about this great hope coming and YOU get to be the generation that sees it happen!?! How fucking cool is that? HUNDREDS of YEARS! I’d be super stoked too. Can you imagine? I mean, my parents told me we would go camping in the summer and when THAT happened, I was stoked. I mean, that was like 6 months away and I didn’t believe it would happen. This was HUNDREDS of years!
There are a couple really important things that happened on Palm Sunday (at least in the history of our belief system):
When Jesus told the disciples to get the donkey, Jesus referred to himself as ‘The Lord,’ which was his way of saying, “yes, it’s me”, because, by riding into Jerusalem on a the colt of a donkey, Jesus fulfilled an ancient prophecy as outlined in Zechariah, yes, it’s an actual book in the Bible. Sometimes, I forget about it. That and the book of Judith…oh wait, that’s not me, that’s the broader church run by patriarchy. Whoopsies. Sorry, back to Zechariah…here’s the verse they were all banking on coming true for hundreds of years.
The Message (MSG)
A Humble King Riding a Donkey
“Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion! Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem! Your king is coming! a good king who makes all things right, a humble king riding a donkey, a mere colt of a donkey. I’ve had it with war—no more chariots in Ephraim, no more war horses in Jerusalem, no more swords and spears, bows and arrows. He will offer peace to the nations, a peaceful rule worldwide, from the four winds to the seven seas.
ACTIVITY: What are the things, or What is THE thing you are at war with in your life?
I’d like you to close your eyes for a minute (what would a talk from me be without me having you do something besides sit?). Picture your heart. What is waging war on your heart right now? The enemy is coming and you see it on the horizon. It’s causing you unrest. Instability and difficulty. It’s Painful and hard. It threatens your very existence.
Write down what that enemy looks like. Use your senses to explore it. What sort of emotions is it giving you? It raises its head and it speaks out its name to you. What is its name?
For me, it’s apathy brought on through disappointment. It takes a long time for me to go there — apathy — but once I do, it’s difficult for me to climb out, especially when it’s brought on by things out of my control or from people I hold dear.
The people that met Jesus were in the midst of a very real war and they were wanting the ass of the oppressor to be kicked by militia and Jesus comes strolling in on the fucking Donkey colt…what!? And they shouted and screamed and partied even though it wasn’t necessarily what they were fully wanting, they knew that what Jesus was doing was right. There wasn’t a crazy battalion coming into town. There was a dude on a donkey (who, by the way, wasn’t blonde haired, blue eyed hippie Jesus, although he’s attractive, probably NOT what Jesus looked like — I picture a George Costanza type of guy, only with more hair and not a dick). They knew something was right about this though and couldn’t help but celebrate. Jesus was kind of their unsung hero…not exactly what they were expecting.
What is that unsung song of peace that is in your life right now? It’s small. It’s unsung. It doesn’t seem like the “right” thing. But there’s this thing in your life that creates peace for you, that might seem humble and not as extravagant as the big guns coming in on horses to rescue you, but it DOES rescue you. It sustains you. It’s not what you expected it to look like, but it slays the beast attacking you and creates peace within you.
Close your eyes again. Picture your heart. What brings peace to your heart right now? Breathe deep. Find the thing that is life-giving for you. It’s empowering.
Write down what that peace looks like to you. Use your senses to explore it. What sort of emotions is it giving you? It raises its head and it speaks out its name to you. What is its name? Hold onto it for a minute.
For me, it’s nature. I live next to Peninsula Park, which in the winter time gets icy and right before the spring, there’s this glimmer of life that reminds me that even in the cold of winter, life is brewing. Then, in the summer, I can smell the roses from my back porch and am reminded of the hope that is kept in the bud all spring.
The second thing that I find significant in this Palm Sunday story is…
Throwing cloaks in the path of someone was an act of homage and submission. The people were recognizing Jesus as this promised Savior.
The people’s cries of ‘Hosanna’ came from Psalm 118:25-29.
This is the very day God acted— let’s celebrate and be festive! Salvation now, God. Salvation now! Oh yes, God—a free and full life!
Blessed are you who enter in God’s name—from God’s house we bless you! God is God, God has bathed us in light. Festoon the shrine with garlands, hang colored banners above the altar! You’re my God, and I thank you. O my God, I lift high your praise. Thank God—You’re so good. Your love never quits!
Hosanna means “save now.” Like I said before, Jesus had been saying he wasn’t the dictator the people were hoping for, a military Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and restore Israel’s independence. The people were still expecting Colonel Mustard to come in with the candlestick or whatever and kill the Romans.
Here’s the game changer: If your hope is in Jesus, as a guy on a donkey, to show up and overthrow the government, guess what? He got crucified. Yet, God, coupled with that guy on a donkey, ended up creating a resurrection and overthrew what people knew as Judaism, the social structure of power that was involved at the time, the value of Caesar as lord, the treasure system within the entirety of the culture, oh, and death itself. God coupled with that man on a donkey, changed our timeline.
Our unsung songs, the things that bring us peace, when coupled with the God of the Universe, creates a space where the thing that is waging war over us, over our hearts, actually has no power against us at all. So our palm leaves today are God’s connection to our unsung songs today. How can you connect your dude on a donkey to the God of the Universe so that it’s not just a rose bud being stuck in the ice, but something you can see bloom into a fragrant symbol of hope and peace that you can take with you into the winter.
We have to acknowledge that humble, unsung, peace-giving thing and celebrate it. Celebrate the shit out of it. Because that’s what hope does for us. A hope that comes to fruition, even if it isn’t quite what we were expecting, brings us the rescue we need and creates peace within us. It makes us want to hang colorful banners and shout and sing and look the fool, because we know…we KNOW this looks different for a reason. It looks different because everything else has been bullshit but THIS? THIS is Truth. THIS is the real deal. The Truth, the Peace-Giver, has been handed down to us, from generation to generation and now, WE get to be the ones to experience it. The story has become part of our DNA. It’s how we can survive the war, even though we might be at our wit’s end.
God, the Messiah, coupled with our humble, unsung, peace-giving word — the thing that is riding over the horizon on a baby donkey, gives us hope of our own hearts’ resurrection and sets us outside of the war. It brings us into the fold and releases us from our oppressors.
Love you guys.