Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 20, 2016

walking in the ways of a donkey

Today is a very significant day in the life of every Christian.  Palm Sunday is the gateway through which we enter holy week.  A week of incredible significance begins with Christ entering the city of Jerusalem, received and lauded as a king, and ends with a resurrected Savior.  But as you may already know, those two glorious points of punctuation are not even close to the full story.

This is my eighth consecutive year of practicing Lent and walking with great intention through holy week.  In my pre-Lenten years, Palm Sunday was just a 30-second commercial spot for the anticipated “big day.”  There were palm leaves and talk of new Easter outfits.  There was the reminder to purchase baskets, fill plastic eggs, and plan the Easter morning “hunt.”  It was the anticipation of a short work week, with Good Friday relegated to not much more than a welcomed vacation day.  It was “season treason” and full of everything but spiritual significance.

Then came the casual inquiry from a friend as to whether I had ever practiced Lent?  And on that blessed fulcrum, the spiritual momentum of my life began to tip in a wholly new direction.  The time of Lent, and my practice of it, has become central to my true self.  The specific emphasis on holy week has awoken within me an entirely new and deep sense of gratitude for what Jesus did for me (and for you).  It blew the cap off the bottle where I had put the Passion part of Easter.  It brought true and vibrant colors to each day in my walk from parade to resurrection.  The bright colors pop. The grays and blacks have taken on new contrast and depth.

So today, I begin where holy week began, with a King riding into town … on a young donkey.  I have known all along this donkey was significant to Jesus’ “triumphal entrance” story, but I had always stopped at the reasons of prophesy and humility.  In Zechariah 9:9-10 it was prophesied that Christ would arrive on the back of a donkey.  And as for humility, it’s pretty easy and obvious to make that connection.  Christ’s two big entrances were both made in great humility:  born, not with a herald in the halls of a gilded palace, but in the anonymity and modesty of a feed trough in a common stable; riding into Jerusalem as a King, not on the back of a noble war-horse, but on the foal of a lowly donkey.  These are perfect illustrations which seem to wrap up the significance into a nice neat package.

Several years ago, I was introduced to a deeper significance in God’s choice of this animal.  I am certain my father-in-law had explained this to me before (having owned a mule — the offspring of a male donkey and female horse — for many years), but in my studies I learned, a donkey is a very smart animal.  It is quite true to its description as a beast of burden, but do not be mistaken.  This is no clueless, led-around-by-the-nose farm animal.  It is equal parts stubborn will and faithful servant … and this is where I found the nugget.

I found an Old Testament story (Numbers 22:21-35) about a prophet (Balaam) who rode on a donkey, which saw an angel, refused to confront the angel, got off of the path and was beaten by the angry prophet … how’s that for cliff notes?  I believe the story reveals a great truth about the donkey.  Namely, it senses danger and stubbornly refuses to go headlong into it.  A horse?  Sound the bugle, kick your heels, and he goes charging.  But a donkey?  No way, sister.  You can push and prod all you want, but this animal is holding its ground.  I found an interesting parallel when considering the near complete absence of any action on Jesus’ part after His dramatic entrance into Jerusalem.

It was the most opportune moment to charge onward to seat of power with the full support of an adoring and boisterous crowd, yet Jesus did nothing.  The people waved palm branches (a symbol of military victory) and cried “Hoseanna!” (which in Hebrew means “save us” or “save us now!”).  This was a perfect storm for a conquering king.  There had to be some talk or even possibly significant pressure to act.  The people expected Jesus to be their deliverer — a man of action who would bring the rod and make right all those times when they were at the short end of the conquering stick.  Yet, rather than rising to the purposes of the people, Jesus stopped and walked off their path.  This King was not here to conquer earthly kingdoms.  This King knew His time, walked His own path, and refused to move at another’s pace or for another’s purpose.

If you can see that parallel, I’d like to suggest one more.  This one has to do with a donkey’s true nature.  It is very much a beast of burden, who bears those burdens as a wise and faithful servant.  Balaam’s donkey knew not to confront but also did not run.  He submitted himself to the beating of an angry prophet, because the alternative was going against the messenger of God.  In what amounts to the first steps of His walk to the cross, Jesus did not confront nor did he run from the suffering He knew was coming.  He submitted to God’s purpose and became the bearer of the greatest burden there ever has or ever will be — the weight of the sins of every person for all time.  In His birth and life, there was never an intent to take an earthly throne.  In His death, Our King’s earthly throne would be a cross.  There He would hang — in His true nature — the full weight and burden of all our sins, faithfully born.

In Jesus’ stubborn and unfailing will, He paid the price so that we might live.  What a perfect choice God made in his plan for Christ’s entry and for our redemption.  Let’s all go into this week, and the remainder of the days God has for us, walking in the ways of a donkey.

Join us as we journey intentionally through holy week.  Take time each day to search the scriptures and follow Jesus’ path to the cross, the grave, and out of the tomb.  What an amazing punctuation we have waiting for us at the end of this week.  Let us not reduce its meaning by running past the deep significance in the details of Jesus’ final days before death and resurrection.  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!!

1_palm sunday_walking in the ways of a donkey


  1. Thank’s for sharing and helping me do a reset for the coming week.

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