Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.
The Sunday before Easter (today) is often referred to as Palm Sunday. It gets that title because it has traditionally been the day we remember Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem as He begins His journey to the cross. On that day as Jesus entered the city He was greeted with people praising Him and waiving palm branches, hence Palm Sunday. Today, I want to draw your attention away from the branches being waved and focus on the ride Jesus had – the donkey.
Most of today’s Bible translations will interpret the Greek word (hypozygion) as donkey. But, the word literally means a pack animal and is translated in a few translations as “beast of burden.” I find that translation to be incredibly helpful in looking at this day from Jesus’ perspective. From ours we usually describe it as an exciting day and the pictures we usually see that depict this day is one of celebration. Much like we think a parade is like. But, if we pay close attention to all the accounts of this day in The Gospel’s we can see that in the moment, it was a heavy day for Jesus.
Luke describes Jesus as looking out over Jerusalem and crying over it because He knows the destruction that awaits them because of the decisions they had made. John records Jesus as saying, just after the entrance into the city, that His soul was troubled. Then, here in Matthew He is riding a donkey. You know donkey’s do, right? They carry burdens, the stuff people don’t want to carry or can carry. They take the weight off during the journeys of life.
One of the things that strikes me in this is that on this day Jesus needed a beast of burden to help Him in this part of His journey. As Jesus entered the city He had the sin of the world on His shoulders. The human side of Christ had to be exhausted. So, He asked for a beast of burden to help Him carry the load. If Jesus needed help and wasn’t afraid to ask for it, then we shouldn’t shy away from it either. If we are overwhelmed with life and the burdens are becoming too much to carry, be sure to say, I need a beast of burden to help carry this load!
So, who is that beast for us? First and foremost the answer is Jesus. Before heading into Jerusalem He invited everyone who was weary and heavy-laden to come to Him so He could give them rest. He invited them to lay their burdens on Him and He would lighten their load. Unload on Jesus – our beast of burden! Let Him carry those burdens that you are too tired to carry. He wants them.
Palm Sunday is the day we celebrate the arrival of Jesus, our beast of burden, coming to our rescue. The moment Jesus embarks on the last leg of His journey to set us free. He isn’t looking for less of a burden, He is taking on more. He wants to free you from yours. Will you let Him?
That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit."
Can you put yourself in the disciples sandals that first Easter morning? What must have been going through their heads? The week had been long with lots of exciting moments, but it ended tragically. They just buried their friend, their teacher. Now, Peter and John claim Jesus’ body is no longer in the tomb and Mary Magdalene is saying she saw and spoke with Jesus. The room the locked themselves in must have been full of grief, confusion, and a lot of fear. Ever been locked in a room like that?
In the midst of all that fear the testimony of Mary wasn’t enough. They still weren’t sure what was happening. They found themselves paralyzed. Fear can do that to us. We can all relate on some level – words can’t change or fix a situation. We need action. Sometimes even being told God is with us isn’t enough – we need to experience Him for ourselves. We need our own encounter with the risen Jesus.
Thankfully, that is what happened in that room. Jesus showed up. The risen Christ came to them, right in the midst of their fear and all the other emotions and things that were keeping them in hiding, locked away. The risen Christ was there, in the midst of His scared disciples. It is what He promised – to never leave or forsake them (or us). If you are in a room today, locked away in hiding, know that Jesus is there with you. That is what the resurrected Lord does – He shows up.
In that room He offered the disciples exactly what they had been looking for – peace. In fact, He breathed on them and encouraged them to receive the Holy Spirit. To receive was to take hold of, to grasp. Jesus was there, offering them life, all they needed to do was take ahold of it. Right now, Jesus is breathing on you, offering you life, offering you peace, offering you forgiveness, offering you love, or whatever else you might need to get out of that dark room. Will you receive it? Will you grasp Him and let Him lead you out?
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.