At church this morning, we celebrated Palm Sunday, which commemorates Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey that had never been ridden.
The pastor made three points that really stood out to me. First of all, the pastor said that the crowds welcomed Jesus on Palm Sunday, yet they were calling for Jesus’ crucifixion a few days later. The pastor asked us if we are consistent in how we feel about Jesus—-will we feel the same about Jesus tomorrow as what we feel about Jesus today? Second, the pastor noted that Jesus rode on a donkey that had never been ridden. The pastor was saying that this was miraculous, since it is hard to ride an animal that has never been ridden before—-or at least it’s hard to ride that animal smoothly! Third, the pastor was noting that some of the Pharisees were criticizing all of the rejoicing that was occurring as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. The pastor said that was should rejoice rather than being negative and dour.
The pastor’s second point—-about Jesus riding a donkey that had never been ridden—-resonated with me on account of something that a Christian lady told me years ago. I asked her why she believed that Jesus was the Messiah, since I was struggling with that issue, having heard Jewish arguments against the idea. She did not respond with the usual Christian apologetic spiel—-that Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophecies, the empty tomb was historical, etc. She may have said that the change in the disciples from fearful to courageous was one factor that convinced her that Jesus was the Messiah, but, overall, she was not giving me some elaborate apologetic spiel that would require me to believe her way, or else. Rather, she talked about what she believed that Jesus had done in her life—-that she met her husband, when neither she nor he prior to meeting each other had dated that much; and that her grandmother lived long enough to see her become a teacher. But the lady also mentioned the donkey who had never been ridden. She said that Jesus must have had a gentle, loving personality to convince that animal to trust him. She then said that it’s the little things that convince her that Jesus is the Messiah.
This, in my opinion, overlaps with and reinforces my pastor’s other two points. How would I consistently love Jesus, rather than waffling in my feelings about him? I would do so if I saw Jesus as loving and gentle, as he was with that donkey who had never been ridden. And what would convince those critical Pharisees (not that all Pharisees were critical, but some were) to rejoice rather than being dour? Perhaps an appreciation of Jesus’ love and gentleness would have encouraged them to rejoice—-they wouldn’t need to worry about Jesus infringing on their power and influence, for why crave power and influence to feed one’s soul, when one has God’s love?
I realize that there are more factors at play: the Pharisees may have feared that the rejoicing crowd would get the attention of the Romans, who wouldn’t like a Messianic uprising on the Passover; the people who rejoiced about Jesus may not have been the same as those who called for his crucifixion; Jesus doesn’t always appear gentle (though, even then, I’d say that he was nicer than the Christians who act as jerks then claim that they’re merely following Jesus’ example), etc. But my pastor and that Christian lady still made edifying points.