by Christopher Harbin

Riding a Donkey of Peace
Christopher B. Harbin
Psalm 118:19-29; Mark 11:7-11; John 12:12-16

He entered in peace. That was the message inherent in riding a donkey. The crowds were prepared to understand that. They were ready to hail Jesus as Messiah, as king. They were willing to accept his arrival in peace. That much they understood. That much they could grasp.

A conquering king rode on the back of a horse. Horses were the military mode of travel. They were also weapons of war. The back of a donkey was a far different thing. Taking a donkey to battle would be giving the enemy an unfair advantage. Taking a donkey into battle would require attending to the donkey, rather than the enemy. The donkey was how a king rode in peace. It was a gesture of love. That much they understood. What they did not understand was how Jesus would offer that peace.

Perhaps they understood peace as coming through some divine intervention. Jesus would by some miracle cast out the occupying Roman armies and establish a treaty of peace with the hated empire. They understood peace in military terms. That was really the only kind of peace they did understand. They were limited in their grasp of how nations could live at peace, having known war and of intimidation as the only avenues to peace. Such peace, however, had always been tenuous at best. It was only as lasting as one’s weaponry and defense systems were effective deterrents against foreign invaders of internal power struggles. What else could Jesus mean by this symbol of brining peace?

Symbols, after all, are only as good as their ability to communicate. One might develop a wonderful new symbol, but if its message is not understood, it remains meaningless. John recognized that there was more to the symbol than was apparent at the moment of Jesus’ ride. It would only be after the close of the week in Jerusalem that Jesus’ message would come clear. It would be in retrospect that the image of Jesus’ ...

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