Provocation, Jesus style.

Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-26-_-_Entry_into_Jerusalem2My donkey toy, the one pictured at the top of this page, was paraded around church yesterday.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and a Family Service at Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield. The children walked round the church with palm branches (actually green paper approximations of palm branches,) ans a toy donkey at the start of the service. But what did that really mean to those there?

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”  Matthew 21:1-3

As was mentioned in our service this was a pre-organised sign, a secret rendezvous to hide the intentions of what was happening.

What kind of king?

The Gospel reading continued…

This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,

‘Behold, your king is coming to you,

humble, and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”

A quote from the prophet Zechariah, (9:9) about the arrival of the King. But what kind of king? The prophet was writing to Jews who had returned from the captivity in Babylon. Everything about their country had changed, the cities destroyed, the temple in ruins and the monarchy gone. The people longed for security, and that security meant having a king.

So what the prophet wrote would be subversive to people with that idea. How many people had entered Jerusalem on donkeys in those days. Lots of them. Kings rode horses, a white Arab stallion is a fit beast for a king, not a donkey. Donkeys are for riff-raff, ordinary people Which is what the prophet is saying, “This is the kind of king you should have, an ordinary bloke.

How not to win friends and influence

The Gospel continues:

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Who would have been impressed by this?

Not those wanting a military solution, the use of a donkey would not have been to their liking. Not  the authorities either. The Roman authority in Jerusalem would not like it, The Galilean authorities would not like it either, as Jesus was from Galilee. Neither would the Jewish authorities, as their position of power depended on not upsetting the Romans.

The reason, palm branches.

The independence of Jerusalem was celebrated with palm branches in 1 Maccabees.

What Jesus did here was motivate the powers against him. But by fighting together against God’s Son they ended up bringing about God’s purpose.

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