Written by: Nathan Pfeiffer pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Spokane, Washington.
What if I told you that the President of the United States was going to come to visit you personally, and needed you to pick him up at the Greyhound bus station? It would never happen, right? He’s too busy to visit you personally and too powerful to ever ride a bus!
Observing how today’s powerful people get around and who they spend their time with makes the events of Palm Sunday all the more astounding! Listen to what the Prophet Zechariah said about how and to whom the King of kings, the Son of God, your Savior, comes:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
The One riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday isn’t just the leader of a nation, but the King of the Universe—the eternal and almighty Son of God.
The Church (Zion and Jerusalem) is told to rejoice because the King is coming to them and He is riding . . . a young donkey?! That doesn’t sound right. A donkey has never been a symbol of power, but rather a lowly beast
of burden. This is the King the people of God are to rejoice over?
HOW the King comes to His people is a demonstration of what sort of King He is. He is not one who comes with strong military might. He does not come by force. He is not one that comes with a great display of wealth. He is “coming to you . . . lowly.” The King, riding on a donkey, comes by lowly means.
When the Son of God became man, He was not born to a noble family. Instead He was born of the Virgin Mary, a nobody girl from a poor, nothing village named Nazareth. His was not a life of being waited on hand and foot by servants, but this King came to serve—serve His Father and serve us. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
As we consider the events of Palm Sunday, we are struck to see a picture of Jesus Himself in the beast of burden (a donkey) He rode upon. Jesus too came to bear the spiritually enormous burden of our sins. Isaiah writes, “The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). The burden of our lust, our coveting, our selfishness, our lovelessness, our hatred, was all borne by Jesus. He lifted our burden up, took it on Himself, and by His death on the cross removed it forever. “Rejoice! . . . your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation.”
The King of salvation continues to comes to you today in much the same manner as He did on Palm Sunday: lowly. He comes by the still, small voice of the Gospel. It may not seem like much, but neither did that colt He rode on Palm Sunday. Every time you read the good news of what Jesus did to save you, every time you hear it preached from the pulpit in church, King Jesus rides into your heart assuring you of His full and complete work to save you.
So, too, with the Sacraments. Baptism may not seem like much to the casual observer. But just as Jesus came lowly and riding a donkey, so also He comes lowly and gently through the water and word in baptism. Through this lowly Means of Grace, He rides into the heart of the infant or adult and sets up His throne to rule as He sanctifies and cleanses that person. We find the same thing in the Lord’s Supper. Through the humble means of unleavened bread and wine, Jesus comes and gives His very body and blood to comfort and strengthen us.
Therefore, rejoice! The King of kings is not too busy for you. He who once rode into the capital city of Jerusalem, lowly and on the back of a beast of burden, to die for the sins of the world, continues to come to you today with salvation through the lowly means of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Rejoice! Your King comes to YOU!