The Triumphal Entry
It’s kind of strange if you think about it. During Easter we celebrate a moment in history when a man rode on a donkey. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, and it is one of the most significant events in human history. The reasons it is so significant is because it is so insignificant. In other words, for a man of such significance to do something of such insignificance is significant.
High-profile people like to show how powerful they are with an entourage, security and a grand entrance. Even in our day, people arrive to big events in style. I used to work valet parking for the Kentucky Derby. The only thing fancier than the cars I parked were the gargantuan hats of the ladies in attendance.
Kings simply don’t ride on borrowed donkeys to show their greatness. But Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to fulfill the words of Zechariah 9:9
Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) — 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Why did it matter that Jesus rode a donkey? It mattered because the Scripture had to be fulfilled. It mattered because on that donkey Jesus embodied everything he taught about the nature of the Kingdom of God. In God’s kingdom, the first are last and the last are first (Mk 10:31). Servant-hearted humility is true greatness (Mk 10:43–44). And the rich find it difficult to enter in (Mk 10:25).
Jesus rode a donkey because he is a different kind of king who rules a different kind of kingdom. Jesus is a humble king. He is the kind of king that uses his great power for the good of others. He is the kind of king that serves his people, and when they fail him, he forgives them.
The gods of world religions don’t operate this way. They use their power quite differently. The gods of other religions always demand more of their subjects. Work harder. Clean yourself up better. They use their power to make demands on your life and then heap up guilt when you can’t live up to their standards.
Jesus is different. Yes, he upholds the law of God that none of us can keep. Jesus wants us to know that we are indeed sinners. But as the God-man, he also keeps the law perfectly on our behalf. And he paid the penalty that our sins deserved by dying on a cross, bearing our sin. He wants us to see our sin so that we can see him as our only salvation.
Jesus is a different kind of king entirely. He calls us to obey him and when we fail him, he forgives us—his blood is the guarantee of that.
Kings don’t ride on donkeys, but neither do they sit on cruciform thrones. But that’s what Jesus did. On the cross he overcame the power of sin, Satan, and death. He rose from the dead to grant eternal life to all who come to him in repentance and faith. Will you trust him this Easter?
Matthew 11:28–29 (ESV) — 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.