Preached by Pastor Jeanette
Palm Sunday – He’s Riding A Donkey
March 27/28, 2010
We were talking about this gospel reading at breakfast on Friday
at 7:30 – at Dunlap’s – for all who are interested in joining us!
One of our seminarians told us something she’d learned recently
in the history of Bible translation.
You might think that translating the Bible isn’t all that difficult…
But usually it’s not as easy as you might think.
The readings about Palm Sunday are a case in point.
You see, when the Bible was being translated into the
Native Cree language, there wasn’t an indigenous word for donkey.
The best they could come up with was a “small long-eared animal.”
It turns out, that in Cree, the people heard this passage
and the other gospel readings about Palm Sunday,
and envisioned Jesus riding into Jerusalem
not on a donkey – but on the small long-eared animal
they knew about – a rabbit!
Now that is a picture!
If there’s anything more ridiculous to imagine than a king
arriving into a city on a donkey
it’s perhaps a king making his appearance riding on a rabbit!
It’s that same absurdity
that we are to hear in today’s reading.
A guy riding on a rabbit…even a guy riding on a donkey…
can’t be king, can he?
That’s just ridiculous!
Ridiculous for the Roman soldiers occupying the city perhaps,
but not as ridiculous for the faithful Jews who knew Scripture–
who lived there.
We’re told Jesus arrives near Jerusalem
and makes plans for his entrance into that great city.
He sends two of disciples on ahead.
Things don’t happen “by accident” in the Bible.
And it’s not by accident that Jesus asks them to bring a colt – a young donkey.
Let’s look in the Old Testament to the book of Zechariah.
In our pew Bibles it’s on page _____
“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.”
The messiah was expected to come on a donkey.
But wait! There’s more!…Where would the Messiah come from?
A few chapters later in Zechariah,
Zechariah 14:4 on page ______ we read
“On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives…”
Hmm..The Mount of Olives.
The place where the gospel writer Luke says Jesus stopped.
Not a coincidence. Not by accident.
Luke wants us to know that Jesus is the long-expected messiah.
And the crowd which lays cloaks at his feet
for him to pass shout out according to Luke, not Hosanna, but
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Sound familiar? Turn to Psalm 118:26 – page _____
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Not a coincidence. Not by accident.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus comes as the promised messiah,
from the Mount of Olives,
riding on a colt – the foal of a donkey
as the people shout “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
But we all know that this messiah
must be a very different kind of king than most kings.
Most kings would make their entrance as
royal garments are spread at their feet –
not the tattered cloaks of ordinary people
that were thrown on the ground for Jesus.
Most kings would enter on horseback
carrying with them instruments of war – symbols of their mighty power –
not on a puny little donkey with big ears
and so short that his rider’s feet almost touch the ground.
Jesus’ power is not based on size or military might…
His power is in his coming as a king of peace, not war,
offering forgiveness not revenge.
There is power in forgiveness.
In the movie “Schindler’s List,” a concentration camp officer,
says that he has the power to kill his Jewish prisoners,
and that is why they fear him.
That is what power is, he says.
But Oscar Schindler, the hero of the movie, says,
“That’s not power.
Rather, power is the ability to have every justification to injure,
but to pardon instead.
That is power. Power is pardon.”
The power of forgiveness is the kind of power Jesus brings.
Our theme throughout Lent has been about the journey…
We’ve put up this walking stick and talked about
many parts of the journey on the way:
Today, as we begin Holy Week,
we begin the final steps of this journey
which takes us from Palm Sunday to Good Friday.
We go from being one of those people in the crowd who shout out,
“Hosanna! Hail to the king!”
to one of those people in the crowd who shout out,
“Crucify him! Crucify him!”
As Fleming Rutledge says,
“the liturgy of Palm Sunday is set up
to show you how you can say one thing one minute
and its opposite the next.
This is the nature of the sinful human being.”
Our task this week to recognize ourselves
in both crowds.
We are the ones who sing praises to God today
and turn on him tomorrow.
We are the ones who proclaim the peace of God today
and fight with our neighbors tomorrow.
We are the ones who promise to remember with Aubrey our own baptisms daily
yet forget about them tomorrow.
We are the ones who say we love Jesus today
and fail to see Jesus in others who need our help tomorrow.
The good news is that the guy on the donkey is a king
whose power is in pardon.
The good news is that Easter is coming.
But not yet.
We have a journey to make this week.