“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38)
I wrote in an earlier post about how Jesus turned the world upside-down, especially in relation to power. And there are few incidents in his earthly ministry which portray this like his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Here was the King of the Jews about to make an entrance into the capital city of his nation. His preferred vehicle? A donkey. Kings in the ancient world don’t ride on donkeys; they ride on stout, well-maintained horses. Their vehicle was a symbol of their glory, power, and prestige. Just imagine a modern president riding a bicycle to a state function.
The procession of Jesus into the city was no doubt as subversive as his entire teaching was. He was going against established customs and traditions which were contrary to God’s revelation. And one such area was in the use of power. He had warned his disciples to avoid the oppressive use of power:
“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-26)
Power was not a tool for oppression but for service. God though He was, Jesus had come to serve and not be served (Matt. 20:28). After he had ascended into heaven, his disciples would recall how he went about healing people oppressed by the Devil (Acts 10:38). For Jesus, power was a tool for liberating the captives, and not for enriching or promoting oneself (Isaiah 61:1). He was a King, but a different kind.
And this was precisely what he demonstrated on that first Palm Sunday. A King on a donkey was a contradiction in terms. Yet, here was the power of God’s kingdom. It advances through the humble and faithful efforts of Christ and his disciples, not the machinations and strategies of earthly power. And the redemption which Christ accomplished was itself the climax of a lifetime of selfless service. Can we attempt to do otherwise?