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I remember like yesterday, I was about to be 10 years old and my birthday was fast approaching. The only thing in this world I wanted was a shiny blue Schwinn bike like my older sister’s. I talked about it non-stop right up to the morning of the big day.
The big day had arrived. They packed our family in the car, drove north to a camping ground where we hiked, played games, ate my favorite foods. I even had a most amazing birthday cake. After dinner I opened a few presents that included a not-so-great jacket and some other things that I didn’t want or need. No bike. I was so disappointed. A great day ruined by me not getting what I thought I deserved. Unmet expectations had ruined all the family time, love, laughs and fellowship with each other. Everything was thrown out the window because of my lack of understanding the bigger picture of what was happening. They were saving the bike as a Christmas gift.
I thought about that piece of my past as I read an account from New Testament scholars John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg. They pointed out the parade that heralded Jesus entry into Jerusalem wasn’t the largest or most spectacular parade in town during that particular Passover season. Pilate had his own parade. Pilate’s entry was a show of force including cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun glinting on mental and gold. Imagine the sound of drums, marching feet, clanking of soldiers gear and the clopping of horses feet. The purpose of this parade was to strike fear into those who had even the smallest thought of coming against such power regime. The other procession was Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. While Pilate’s parade showed intimidation through military strength, Jesus’s was the opposite.
In Mathew and Mark are recorded Jesus’s words telling them to go and find a donkey. “Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet (Zechariah 9:9), saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, a the foal of a beast of burden” (Matthew 21:1-5).
Because the Jews hated the Romans so much, and their expectations were so high that God would send a King with power and might, like Pilate, who would deliver them from their oppressor Rome! They did not understand that Jesus would come first as a humble servant to redeem sinners by paying the penalty for their sins on a cross and then would come back again someday to rule forever as King of all Kings!
“The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee” (Matthew 21:6-11).
Jesus, riding on a young donkey, embodies the peace and tranquility that God brings to His people. Most all who watched and celebrated chose to follow and support Jesus not as their Savior, but as a man like King David, who would restore the glory and power of their nation. Those who watched that day had to make a choice. They either chose to serve the god of this world through a cruel murderer of a man who was wealthy and had power; or they chose to serve the king of a very different kind of kingdom, the Kingdom of God.
By the end of the week, Jesus did not meet the expectations of the crowd and his friends. Because of their nearsightedness, they did not understand that Jesus, being in the very nature of God, had plans not to save their lives from the Romans but rather to save their lives through his own death. He was going to give them a new life that would last for eternity. They were all disappointed and many were angry because God was not doing what they thought He should do. The crowds left and many would turned on him. Even those closest to Jesus, the 12 disciples, either betrayed him outright, or abandon him in confusion and fear.
I have often asked myself the question: Had I been in Jerusalem that day, and had seen both processions passing by, which one would I have chosen to follow. Would I have chosen power, promises, and might through a corrupt man king, or would I have chosen to follow a humble King, whose love for us all would eventually take Him to the cross?
Who are you choosing to follow: the world system without God or the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings who promises a new heart and eternal life?