Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.
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The story of Palm Sunday really begins with a donkey. Most of us have heard how Jesus sent his disciples to the village of Bethphage with instructions to bring back a donkey. When you read Matthew’s account, you realize that the two disciples actually brought back two donkeys–a mother and her young colt that had never been ridden. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on the young colt with the mother walking alongside.
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“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey" (Matthew 21:5).
This prophecy tell us two specific facts about the Messiah. First, he will come as a gentle king riding on a donkey. Second, he will come as a righteous king bringing salvation to his people.
As we have seen many times in this Lenten journey, Jesus was routinely misunderstood by his own people. Either they took him for granted, or they underestimated him, or they feared him because they did not know his true identity. In his final entry into Jerusalem, he comes as the true King of Israel, riding on a beast of burden, not on a triumphant steed.
On Palm Sunday we worship the One whose kingdom is not of this world, who offered himself to his people while riding on a borrowed donkey. The hymn “From Bethany, The Master” says it well:
The King of Love, in triumph
Rides through the city’s gate;
Rejected, scorned—yet Victor,
The Conqueror of hate;
O wave your green palm branches!
Exalt His matchless worth!
This King of Love shall conquer
The nations of the earth.
Lord Jesus, you knew fully the pain of our rejection. You came as a King, but we would not have you. Grant that we might follow you to the cross and count it all joy for your sake, Amen.
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