Our business manager, Ken Wells, provided the insightful comment that different age groups might view this passage differently. That younger people see him riding on an animal and that a great party is about to happen. Teens might see it slightly differently knowing what happens to Jesus in about a week and adults might foresee the inevitable crucifixion and death and see a lowly Jesus who will sink even lower into a shameful death as a criminal.
I would add that perhaps people of different economic status would also look at this scene via a different lens. The poor see a man who can’t even afford a horse, riding in on a mule who may have been stubborn and caused the ride into Jerusalem to take longer than usual and perhaps be a rocky entry into the Holy City and to Jesus’ eventual demise. The rich, especially those with political power, might be apt to see a man who is making a statement. The people rejoice at the lowliness of this entry as opposed to Pilate who enters with Chariots and horses on the other side of town virtually unnoticed. Is Jesus “making an ass” out of Pilate? The religious authorities also miss the point when they ask Jesus to rebuke his disciples. Perhaps Jesus is chiding them a bit as well?
What kind of entry to we make when we choose to follow Jesus? Is it “all about us” when we make a grand entrance in a large procession filled with pomp and circumstance? Are we more subtle in how we “make an entrance” into someone’s life who needs us to be Christ for them? Needless to say, Jesus does make a spectacle of himself in front of so-called “elegant” people. Are we willing to be “a fool for Christ” as well, risking embarrassment and shame for the sake of Jesus and the Kingdom of God?
How will we enter Holy Week? Do we enter overly haughty because we are overly proud of our Lenten observance? Or have we truly died to our old selves, grown a bit more humble throughout these 40 days and realized that we indeed deserve no more than an ass to sit on? Have we gotten in touch with the poor and seen our part in depriving them of even the basics? Moreover, have we prayed enough? Have we taken time away from our busy lives to get back in touch with God? Has that Lenten experience changed us and served as a reminder of who we must become?
Today let us be mindful of our own tendencies to forget who we need to be and how we must set aside our own horse and chariot (or Mercedes-Benz perhaps?) and take the simple ride on a not so comfortable donkey. For it is in that discomfort that we come to discover all we must become for each other and how we find who God is for us.