LENTEN REFLECTIONS ON JOHN 12:9-19 - THE TRIUMPHANT ENTRY - SARAH-EMILY STEINHARDT, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.
Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King
The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
“Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”
At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.
Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
Ahhh, that high point of Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday, the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. To me, Lent always seems such a dark, somber season that this point in the church calendar was like a bright, shiny, feast and festival. Crowds. Parades. Shouting. Singing. The lush green of waving palms. Alleluias are banished all of Lent, and yet today “Hosanna!” is shouted. Very contrary to the rest of Lent, don’t you think? Jesus and his status are rising to an absolute ‘fever pitch’, just before things really go south in the days and moments to come. It almost feels like a spectacle, doesn’t it? Surely, many people were also curious about Lazarus, and that had to fuel the fire of the moment.
In this scripture, I’m caught on the fact that Jesus rode on the young donkey (baby, foal, colt), and did so to fulfill scripture. Do you know some scientists, scholars and theologians even argue that physically, a baby donkey wouldn’t have been able to hold the weight of a grown man? Consequently, some believe Jesus part rode, part levitated as he paraded into the city. Whoa. I wouldn’t doubt it, with the energy of the moment. The deeper meaning to me is how common and ‘un-special’ a donkey seems to be. We don’t have time to note and discuss all the times throughout scripture a donkey has been used in extraordinary, miraculous ways. Let’s be honest: A donkey doesn’t have the ‘wow’ factor of a majestic stallion, peacock, decorated elephant or exotic tiger. To me, that donkey he chose represents US. You and I. Common, regular, everyday folk. Messed up, doing the best we can. Poor, nothing fancy. A bunch of sorry asses. Yes, I said it – you can chuckle – I only meant donkeys, nothing foul. Hear me out, because here’s the thing - we’re chosen! Chosen by Jesus to usher him in triumphantly. Isn’t that the beauty and mystic nature of our faith and salvation? In our commonness, we are still chosen and used for something beautiful and powerful. I’m so grateful for the moment of the triumphant entry and that Jesus could have chosen anything, but chose a donkey.
Strengthen our faith, Lord! Allow our eyes to see YOU riding on the chosen donkey. Allow our voice to sing ‘Hosanna!’ to you – knowing that means ‘Save’ and ‘Rescue’. Thank you for the brightness of this moment leading up to death. Help us to enter more deeply into the mystery of your unconditional love, as we near Good Friday. Let your work and will be accomplished in our lives, Lord.
Submitted by Sarah-Emily Steinhardt, the Member Engagement Coordinator of St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church.
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.