Let me take you back to the recent marital festivities of Prince William and his lovely bride, Kate Middleton. There were yards of satin and lace, trumpet fanfares, gilded carriages, and regal equine. Her train was nearly as long as the local football pitch and the pipe organ music moved many to tears. Her prince stood at the altar, in full regalia, while the fortunate invitees looked on from their uncomfortable pews--and the rest of the world watched online, on television, on gigantic screens in Trafalgar Square.
Whether we would own up to it or not, we followed their love story with rapt attention. And, seemingly everyone knew about The Wedding. Even those who don’t keep up with or really care about such things (like My Favorite Philosopher) knew that somewhere in Britain, a handsome prince and a beautiful bride were tying the knot.
Let’s go back about two thousand years.
He was born in the lowliest of circumstances--in a stable, among noisy, smelly animals. Raised in Nazareth ("Does anything good ever come from there?", inquired one future follower), he was the earthly son of a Jewish carpenter. No rank, no privilege, no status. But, one small catch--he is the Son of God.
After three years of teaching, brilliantly putting the Pharisees in their place, miracles, and generally silencing those who would identify Him as who He really was, the time comes for the reveal. His followers are hoping for a battalion of soldiers in full weaponry, a lithe white stallion prancing, and a myriad of musicians, announcing the King’s arrival. Surely, He will make His presence known, the epitome of pomp and circumstance. He travels toward Jerusalem, knowing full well what awaits Him.
And, he arrives on the foal of a donkey. What the bless?!? This must be a mistake.
There’s no hyperactive hottie carpenter, hollering “Move That Bus!”. He enters the city on a beast of burden, a close relative of the mule. A servile animal that represents humility and peace. To make matters worse, they don’t even have a saddle! Well-worn garments are hastily placed on the donkey’s back as a replacement for the necessary tack. And, the only sound one might have heard was the tentative braying of the “chariot” carrying the King.
At first. Then, the exhausted, rag-tag pilgrim crowd notices Him. And, they begin to point. Knowing of His words and works, they recognize Him as one who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna. Battered tunics and dusty cloaks are tossed on the path, creating an aisle runner for his entrance and palm branches are waved in His honor.
Unlike many royal processionals, He is not returning victorious from battle, glowing with triumph. There are no dancers celebrating the spoils, or singers joyfully touting his accomplishments on the field. A Royal Event Planner’s nightmare.
The battle is just about to begin. Pain and agony, of unfathomable kinds, are in store for the Man riding the foal. He knows it.
The triumph is yet to come.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
~ Zechariah 9:9