Delayed by the Donkey
My dad used to take great delight in parking his tatty old Fiat 127 next to his colleagues' BMWs and Mercedes. He was one of the senior medics at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. The other doctors would drive something that ensured everyone knew their status and privilege. In the Easter story we find Jesus on the wrong form of transport. Kings don't ride donkeys.
As Jesus is preparing to enter Jerusalem as King, he asks his disciples to head into the city and find a donkey. This is not the right kind of transport for a triumphal entry. He was supposed to be riding into Jerusalem to bring freedom from the Romans. Instead he comes as a servant, ready to lay down his life, once for all.
We see donkeys in a different light nowadays. They have become a day's attraction that you can go and visit. No longer a humble working animal but resigned to retirement homes and sweet sponsorship deals. But they're also loved. Last week our garden was taken over by lots of parents and children from our All Saints church playgroup called Toddler Rock. Two donkeys were faithfully and gently providing rides for every child. The joy of the children and parents was tangible. Donkey rides are a brilliant way to share the Easter message, the parents could not stop talking about it. Well done to all involved.
My dad is more concerned with how things are than how they appear. He was content with being generous with his money and driving a car that was functional (mostly). In fact I think he secretly delighted in parking his lawnmower styled car right next to his colleagues' over engineered status symbols.
It's all too easy to get comfortable with the Easter story. We get distracted by the sweetness of the donkey. Foot washing can only be done with pre-cleaned feet. Receiving bread and wine can become a comforting weekly pattern rather than something that radically overturns the religious systems and even history itself.
So much of the Easter story does not sit comfortably. If the plan was to save the world and start a world changing organisation I'm not sure Jesus’ scheme would've got through business school. There are concepts that are difficult to explain. Like the fact that Jesus came to complete and fulfil the old sacrificial system and its laws. He came to pay the price for us. The strategy is not one of a powerful leader riding in victorious to save the day. Instead, Jesus becomes a humble servant, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and a week later is killed in the worst way possible. On a Roman cross.
This is supposed to be the King of the world, the one who's come to save us! A week in, and the crowds are disappointed and call for his execution. It's only after his resurrection that Jesus' family and his followers really begin to understand what has happened. The only way to deal with sin and death was to come in person and stand in our place. Only someone who was fully human, fully God and yet completely sin free could do this. Isaiah 53:6 says that, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. God the Father takes the sin, the mess and the death of all humanity and lays it on his perfect sinless son in order to set us free. It seems that God’s ways are not our ways, but they are good ways.
I pray that as we retell the Easter story together over the coming weeks that we will look with fresh eyes. That we will not get distracted by the things that we think we know or the way that things appear on the surface. But that we would look deeply and wonder again at the King who comes riding into the city on a donkey. That we would see his good way and walk in it.
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)
You can find out more about our Easter events here