Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, curbside service at restaurants has become popular. You place your order on your phone or online, pull into specially mark parking, and text the restaurant to let them know you are there. In some cases, you tell them the kind of car you are driving and its color as several people may be parked waiting on their order. With your vehicle described, you wait for your food.
In the Gospel, we find Jesus riding into Jerusalem on what is traditionally called “Palm Sunday.” It is the week of his crucifixion, and Jesus enters Jerusalem to a crowd of individuals who are excited to see his arrival. For many, he is the Son of David, their messiah, and their new King. Jesus is coming to restore Jerusalem to its glory days. With the number of people in the crowd on the crowded streets, how will they know he has arrived?
However, Jesus will not be arriving with a police escort with sirens blaring. The gospels tell us that Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, riding on a donkey to fulfill the prophetic word of Zechariah. In Matthew 21:5, we read, “Tell the city of Zion. Look, your King is coming to you! He is humble and rides on a donkey and a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus’ choice of transportation seems to go against the grain of what we would consider being used by a King. How about the King pulled by a group of horses, chariot, or maybe riding a fierce-looking stallion? But a donkey? What is there to get excited about a simple, plain donkey? They were everywhere. Where is the spark, the charisma, the show of power? You can’t rev up your engine if you are riding on a donkey.
The scripture teaches us that Jesus came in humility. Humility is the quality of being humble and means putting another person’s needs before your own and thinking of others before yourself. Jesus is the perfect picture of humility, not only on this particular day but also throughout his ministry. Jesus always lived by a philosophy that he had come to serve rather than be served. In the day of Jesus, a king was surrounded by servants who did his every bidding. Jesus, however, understood himself as a servant King, who came to offer love, mercy, compassion, and kindness to others. Jesus didn’t make every act he performed about himself, but others. On his last night with his disciples, Jesus knelt before them and washed their feet. Jesus then told them he had given them an example to follow.
The great revivalist preacher Jonathan Edwards once said, “We must view humility as one of the most essential things that characterize true Christianity.” As followers of Jesus, we are called to lives of humility. With Jesus as our example, we are called to put the needs of others before ourselves. The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your interests, but the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3-40) When we follow Jesus, we surrender our need to be in the limelight but joyfully choose to be a servant of others. This is the kind of life that Jesus modeled and invites us to follow.
What would the world look like if we as Christians followed our leader? How would we treat others? What would our words sound like, and what would our actions say about us? How do people know when we have arrived? By the noise, we make about ourselves or by our silent service to others? Christianity will have its most significant influence not on the noise it makes but by its willingness to love, serve, and live as Jesus did. That’s how the world will know who we are riding with.