Behold your King comes, gentle and riding on a donkey-
This week we celebrate Palm Sunday. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem that Passover week so long ago he faced seemingly insurmountable opposition— an uneducated carpenter from an obscure village up north, riding right into the teeth of all those who would destroy him. But what his enemies didn’t know was that this was exactly the plan. He was going to conquer even in his defeat, he was laying down his life willingly so that we would not have to.Jesus was going to face his accusers so that we would not have to, he was going to suffer the very wrath of the Father, so that we would not have to.
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. John 10:17,18
Palm Sunday was Jesus storming the beaches of Normandy to free a people from oppression and to deliver the world from tyranny. A one-man army on a plodding burro going to defeat the powers of darkness who had invaded and perverted all of the earth.
We all want to be safe, we all want to be free from harm and the threat of harm. If you’ve ever felt vulnerable, especially if it has been a way of life, as it is for way too many people— especially women and children— then you know what a desperate and lonely feeling this is. It consumes you, it steals your joy, your sleep, and, it may seem, even your very soul.
I have been in ministry for a long time and have seen over and over again the hurt and fear in a person’s eyes who has had to live this way, victims of abuse at the hands of a loved one, a husband, father, mother, a neighbor, it’s especially hard when it at the hands of someone that everyone else thinks is okay— “They would never hurt anyone.” You may even start to believe that it’s your own fault or that you somehow deserve it.
Lies, all lies! No one deserves to live in fear, you are not to blame for the sins of another and anyone who is causing someone pain is doing just that, sinning. We are commanded over and over again to be motivated by love, to treat others the way we want to be treated, to encourage and bless others. That’s the way our Lord was and is. The only people Jesus ever had a problem with were those who were hurting others and justifying it in his Father’s name.
“They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” Mark 12:40
It has been a goal of mine in my entire life in ministry whether I was teaching kids in a Sunday school class, doing a Bible study in a jail, teaching a Celebrate Recovery meeting, pastoring a church, or writing a book, that the people who are looking to me for answers—some relief from their confusion and hurt— that they feel safe. No one can feel love if they do not first feel safe. It’s very difficult to accept the love of a God who claims to be our Father when you have never felt the love of a Father figure in this life, if you have never felt safe in the presence of a man, especially if that man is claiming to represent that God. That’s why Jesus came “gentle and humble of heart”— “gentle and riding on the foal of a donkey.”
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Mat 11:29
We know Jesus had incredible power, he raised the dead, made the lame to walk, escaped mobs who wanted to kill him, calmed a storm on the sea— Jesus could very easily have conquered the Romans and taken the Throne from Herod, the puppet King. But Jesus had come to Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday for another reason—to ensure our safety, the safety and security of a relationship with his Father, a Father who is the very definition of Love, a Father whose love was reflected in the gentle strength of his Son.
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Col 1
Jesus reflects, and gives us access to, a Father in whose hands our hearts are safe. Jesus came to give us Spiritual safety and with that comes emotional healing and security as well— in one fell swoop— we are rescued as we trust our souls to him, as we come to understand the depth of his unfailing love for us.
Jesus, the image of the invisible God, came as a shepherd leading and protecting his flock, strong enough to keep the predators at bay and gentle enough to care for even the most fragile lamb.
Jesus was a strong man who could work wood with his hands before the advent of power tools when everything was chopped, chiseled and planed with blades you had to sharpen yourself. Yet those rough calloused hands could reach out and touch the broken hearted and bring healing even to those the world turned away from in scorn. Prostitutes, lepers, the raving mad demon possessed and lepers, even tax collectors- the hated agents of the Roman occupiers.
Those strong yet gentle hands would hold and bless little children whom others found a bother. Those hands would be pierced as they had the nails driven through them pinning him to a wooden cross hewn from wood with tools not unlike he what he himself used to use in his trade. The hands of the creator become a man, now nailed to the wood of a tree, a tree he had created long before his hands bore the marks of a man’s life of toil— all these things, all the love those hands wrought and expressed throughout his life and the pain they willingly suffered as his life was laid down when his toil was finished— all these things represent and illustrate who his Father— now our Father— is.
A God whose hands reach out to us with love. A God whose hands desire to assure and restore, to comfort and protect; hands that are never raised to us in anger but are always open to give if we’ll just heed his voice and come to him unafraid. Our God is our Father and because of that— You are safe.