Riding a donkey

Holy Week opens with drama. Jesus makes a triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. Crowds gather as though welcoming a victorious football team. They spread cloaks about the donkey’s feet and wave palms. It is a real welcome but it is also hollow. It is sincerely meant but it is like “morning mist that quickly disappears.” (Hos 6:4)

Jesus knows the welcome is just style without substance. He knows it will make no difference to what is about to happen. In fact it will make things worse. The welcome will only reinforce the Jewish leaders’ determination to get rid of him. Jesus accepts that he is not accepted. He submits to his fate and this is the most powerful thing he can do.

The readings for Palm Sunday speak of this. “Each morning he wakes me to listen like a disciple” (Isaiah). Each day I am attentive to “the signs” and when they are hostile I resist them. But when I can no longer resist them I do not waver but submit to the consequences – be they ever so bad. “He emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave … accepting death, death on a cross” (Paul).

In the cascade of detail the writers give us about the Passion we try to hold on to the essential: that Jesus freely chose to do the Father’s will and submit to the consequences of human rejection.

Human institutions – the Jewish Sanhedrin and the Roman governor – can do their worst but by submitting to them Jesus ultimately breaks out of their power. The moment of their triumph over him is the moment of his triumph over sin and death.

“The veil of the temple was torn in two, the earth quaked, the rocks were split.” The earth itself explodes as a prelude to his bursting forth from the dead. Easter is the moment of decisive and eternal victory. This is what we are celebrating. It is the triumph of honesty in our own lives. It can be really difficult to submit to the truth.

As a child I can remember stubbornly refusing to tell the truth in order to avoid punishment. As an adult there have been many occasions when I have avoided the truth. The consequences seemed scary, unpredictable and embarrassing. It would be safer to slide off into evasions and flight.

“Face the truth!” How easy that is to say! When we live by the truth, no matter what the consequences, we are sharers in Easter.

Post published in: Faith
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