In these last weeks before Great Lent starts the readings pre-shadow, as it were, the events leading up to Christ’s Passion that we will enter into more fully in a couple of months. And the events of Palm Sunday that are recounted here set the tone for everything that will follow. For they show Jesus Christ as the king who comes to take possession of His people, yet He is a very different type of king from the one many were expecting. Instead of a worldly king with all the trappings of political might, we see something quite different – a king who surprises everyone by riding on a donkey. As Saint Augustine writes:
The master of humility is Christ who humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Thus He does not lose His divinity when He teaches us humility… What great thing was it to the king of the ages to become the king of humanity? For Christ was not the king of Israel so that He might exact a tax or equip an army with weaponry and visibly vanquish an enemy. He was the king of Israel in that He rules minds, in that He gives counsel for eternity, in that He leads into the Kingdom of Heaven for those who believe, hope, and love. It is a condescension, not an advancement for one who is the Son of God, equal to the Father, the Word through whom all things were made, to become king of Israel. It is an indication of pity, not an increase in power.
In choosing to enter Jerusalem on a donkey rather than on a war horse or in a mighty chariot, Jesus Christ shows us the true nature of God’s power, which will be revealed more fully on Holy and Great Friday. He allows us to glimpse the true power of humble self-giving, challenges us on where we expect to find God, and asks us whether we will welcome Him into our lives.
Instead of our garments, let us spread our hearts before Him.
Saint Methodius of Olympus
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 11:1-11:
At that time, as Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat; untie it and bring it. If any one says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'” And they went away, and found a colt tied at the door out in the open street; and they untied it. And those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said; and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and threw their garments on it; and he sat upon it. And many spread their garments on the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” And he entered Jerusalem, and went into the temple; and when he had looked round at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.