Wave or walk away, but this King is passing by
Let the words from the prophet Zechariah reach you on this significant Palm Sunday, April 5th. In his ancient text nestled toward the end of the Old Testament, this postexilic minor prophet writes, “Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.”
The people lining the streets who set down their own coats or palm branches for Jesus Christ as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey—a donkey’s colt—never really heard the humble part of Zechariah’s prophecy which is echoed in Matthew 21. Sure, humble. It was a word. Yes, they knew what it meant. But THIS was JESUS, the healer, the miracle worker. Feeding thousands with a boy’s lunch, walking on water, raising someone named Lazarus from the dead? Wow! All their problems would dissolve! Of course, they would. He HAD to have been the Son of God, whatever that meant. If they could just catch his eye, or, even better, touch him.
Yeah, they missed the humility part. We do, too.
We want Jesus to conquer. We want Jesus to cure. We want Jesus to Save the Day. When he doesn’t do this, or, more specifically, when he doesn’t do this on our timetable with our solution for doing things as they should be done, well, pfft, we dismiss this king.
Many today are dismissing this King because to them Jesus isn’t doing what he’s supposed to be doing—which is saving the world from this unprecedented, crushing, painful, when’s-it-gonna-end pandemic. If Jesus is Jesus, the Son of God, then he should do as he’s told. He should just answer everyone’s prayer not in some vague tomorrow, but here and now.
Some wonder, “How are we going to have Palm Sunday when we can’t have Palm Sunday, at least not in church?”
Others, however, are reassured. This is not a day; Palm Sunday is every day. Bowing to a King—our King—not on a general’s thoroughbred stallion but on a lowly servant’s donkey is something we willingly, earnestly and desperately do over and over and over because we have held the daggers of our own sinfulness against the fragile beauty of what could have been, and what can still be—which is a God with us.
This Palm Sunday is unlike any most of us will ever have. There’s a reason for this. We have, for the first time, an interrupted story—a never-in-our-lifetime event that is shaking us into the frailty of what it means to be human, to be dust.
We are all facing death not distantly, but literally every time we grocery shop, hold the nozzle at a gas pump, or pass a bit too closely to someone who may or may not be wearing a mask over their nose and mouth.
Rather than fret or walk away, pay attention to this King. He is passing by. He may look like nothing because nothing in his countenance is striking (Isaiah 53:2), but Zechariah is right. Jesus is righteous and victorious. Sinless, He conquers our deaths by giving us eternal life.
I have said before and will share again that God didn’t send this tragedy as a punishment. The truth is we live in a fallen world. Jesus came to save us from this mess not by might but grace, not by power but humility.
Starting tomorrow, Thursday, April 2nd, our church is safely leaving palm branches in front of our side porch doors. Take one. It’s yours.
If you can’t get to that branch and don’t really want to wave your own coat, sheet, or bath towel, bow anyway. Submit. Quit sin’s grip over you and live because you, like the humble King you follow, will be victorious over death.