The picture of Jesus riding into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey is a bit ridiculous. Think about it. Rulers didn’t ride donkeys. They had war horses. They used chariots. The had jewel-encrusted thrones, carried by minions. Anyone expecting Jesus to be the King would expect more. Some may have seen it for what it was, a fulfillment of prophecy and the revealing of God’s heart. For the previous three years, he has preached, healed, encouraged and rebuked throughout the region. He was slowly circling this place. The seat of authority. The seat of power and the seat of God. He was also waiting for the right time. While he came to Jerusalem for the Passover before, as a worshiper, but it was now that he entered the Holy City as a King.
This slow circle came with warnings like the Mark statement in chapter 10. 32 "They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Despite these warnings, the Disciples had difficulty grasping what was about to happen. Jesus was coming to Jerusalem to be the King of the Jews. The even argued who would sit next to him when he was enthroned. He would restore God’s People. He would overthrow Israel’s enemies; namely Rome. He would be a great leader, even beyond King David because even David couldn’t do what Jesus has done. David didn’t raise the dead, heal the hurting, restore the abandoned. Even in all his greatness, never once did he forgive sins the way Jesus has done. The anticipation moved beyond the Disciples.
There were many who followed Jesus from a distance. Luke calls them the ‘crowd.’ These were the folks welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem with Palm branches. The cried out ‘Hosanna!’ This cry was a plea for saving as well as a praise. To Roman ears, ‘Hosanna’ was a threat. This Jesus was coming to Jerusalem as a savior, a King who was in direct conflict with anyone who declared themselves to be the ruler of Israel. Rome knew what to do with rebels.
The Jewish leaders weren’t happy with Jesus either. He had mocked them openly. He rebuked them for their ignorance and hypocrisy, leaving them with fewer followers and less power. Jesus was an equal opportunity offender. While the crowds were welcoming upon his entry to the Holy City, they would soon turn on him when he didn’t behave the way they wanted. Hosanna soon became Crucify.
Jesus was reckless in his choice to come to Jerusalem. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The Passover meant that thousands of Jews, from all over the region, were coming to worship at the Temple to celebrate their liberation from Egypt. This act, remembering God’s deliverance, would easily translate into the desire for a new deliverance. This would come not from Egypt but from Rome. From a Roman perspective, the last thing you would want is a strongly nationalistic holiday, in a land you are occupying by force, celebrated by the city swelling beyond what is manageable. On top of that, a would-be King, having stirred up the masses and enraging the Jewish leaders, makes his way into the city at just the wrong time.
Jesus rides into the perfect storm and the tension would have been exquisite.
The final piece of this vortex is God.
God is at work in and through Jesus. God’s Kingdom was declared with every blind eye healed, and every lame leg made straight. Each time grace and mercy poured from the mouth, hands, and feet of Jesus, God’s Kingdome was proclaimed. Justice and Mercy were here.
Only Justice and Mercy look like a carpenter’s son, riding on a donkey. There was no warhorse. There was no army. No bullets or bombs lead this revolt but it would be violent to be sure.
The wrath of the Jewish leaders, the people and Rome would be poured out in violent spasms of scourging, beating, humiliation and crucifixion.
But God was doing something they couldn’t see. God was doing something they couldn’t contain.
A recent song puts it very well.
“And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine And I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah There's no shadow You won't light up Mountain You won't climb up Coming after me There's no wall You won't kick down Lie You won't tear down Coming after me There's no shadow You won't light up Mountain You won't climb up Coming after me.” -Cory Asbury
You can listen to it here. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
I can hear it playing while Jesus gently rocks back and forth as the donkey moves under him.
The love of God is at work in the midst of the social and political turmoil Jesus rides into.
It makes me believe that God is willing to do the same thing with us.
God is willing to kick down, tear down, climb over and overcome any obstacle in his way to get to us. His love is so great, he will be reckless in pursuit of us and Jesus is the proof.
Christians are invited to experience this over and over again, especially during Holy Week.
We have the opportunity to press into the goodness of God. We can re-experience his love every day, but especially as he rides into Jerusalem. He displays a willingness to overcome whatever we may place in his path. He is willing to prove this to you, even as you read this. Maybe you need refreshing this Easter. Maybe your love for him as grown cold and familiar.
He still comes for you. Overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love, even when you don’t care.
May you enter into this truth and experience this Holy Week. May you find yourself loved in ways you can not imagine. May you bask in his goodness and favor toward you, and once you are touched, may you love those around you the same way.
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