The stage is now set for the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The religious establishment has thus far shown nothing but antipathy toward the miracles and the message of Jesus. A showdown is inevitable. A showdown is essential. It is essential to each side of the conflict but for vastly different reasons. Sanhedrin, Inc. is desperate to preserve the hard-won political power of this temporary earthly shell. Jesus is about to open the door of the eternal kingdom and demonstrate a power antithetical to the grease-palmed, whispered intrigues of this world. In earlier passages we have witnessed Jesus slipping in and out of town surreptitiously. That would not be the case this time. We witness here a first century version of the Macy’s Parade: The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” ~John 12:12-15
A little over 500 years before this event, Zechariah, looking through his prophetic lens, saw clearly this first Palm Sunday. Jesus would ride into Jerusalem not on a small donkey, but smaller yet, on a donkey’s colt. That allowed for little clearance. Jesus was most likely dragging his feet along the ground. It was not fitting for a King. It was almost the equivalent of one of those Shriner clown cars.
Yet, it was fitting for this King. He was not raised high above the crowds as were the Roman trossuli (cavalry). Their preferred steeds were the Arabians or the Camargues. No, Jesus remained at eye level, or even a bit below that, as the wee beast struggled its way down Main Street.
The Gospel of St. John records this humble entry for us in great juxtaposition to one of his later works, The Book of Revelation. In the Book of Revelation things change considerably. We see Jesus’ return to earth mounted on a magnificent white horse. The contrast of these two images is instructive and speak to a consistent theme of Scripture. St. Peter would say it this way: Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and you will be exalted in due time. ~I Peter 5:6
A nasty fall awaits those who presume the steed before they’ve mastered the colt. The colt comes before the steed…always.